A Grudging Grudge Match for Notre Dame, Baylor in NCAA Women's Final

A Grudging Grudge Match for Notre Dame, Baylor in NCAA Women's Final
Former Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins will have her hands full when the new Dallas Wings takes on the Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner


In Denver, at the Pepsi Center, there’s a battle brewing. I can feel it from Chicago.

Let’s call it the “Unfinished Business” championship, as the Associated Press suggested. I thought of it, too. But they’re the press of record. So they get credit for the phrase.

I predict it will be “The Cat Fight of the Century.”

Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw declared to the Chicago Tribune, “We keep talking about the Fighting Irish. We ARE the Fighting Irish. Let’s give it a go.” 

I liken the Irish blood-rage level to to a Ron Burgundy “Anchorman” reference.  As Brick (Steve Carrell) whined, “I hear their menstrual blood attracts bears!”

Well, it did. The Baylor Lady Bears, to be exact.

Forget the men’s matchup of Kentucky and Kansas. When women want blood, they rip veins to get it. Notre Dame (35-3) wants blood.

But then again, so does  Baylor. Let’s nickname them the “Grizzly” Bears. With big, sharp, claws. They can rip veins, too.

In the Women’s NCAA Final in Denver on Tuesday night, both teams are looking for their second national championship…and to avenge losses. For Notre Dame, it’s the ohsoclose(76-70)  loss to the Texas A&M Aggies in the 2011 Championship, as well as the humiliating drubbing they took at the hands of the Baylor Lady Bears earlier this season, 94-81.  For Baylor, it’s their own loss to the Aggies in the Elite Eight last year that motivated their perfect (39-0) season that led to this matchup.  Baylor even wore green rubber bracelets this year with “Unfinished Business” emblazoned all season, to remind them of their goal.

Kim Mulkey, Baylor’s coach, wants to win it for her former US Olympic team boss, Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt.

And was it only coincidence that one player is named “Odyssey” and another “Destiny”‘ (Williams)?

If that weren’t enough, the Lady Bears have the opportunity to do something that NO OTHER TEAM  can do: become the first NCAA women’s team in history to go 40-0  in the year that Title IX, the ruling that actually made games like these possible, turns 40.

Notre Dame last won in 2001, and Baylor in 2005.

Who will win in 2012?

On paper, it looks like nothing but Baylor can beat themselves.  They have the Associated Press player of the year, 6’8 center Brittany Griner, the best thing that’s happened to the game of women’s basketball this millennium. She’s not unstoppable. But she’s got help in the outside shooting and blocking of Odyssey Sims. Watch Griner dunk…she will.  A few times. And Baylor’s  got the best defense in the country….how exactly do you score on Griner? No one’s really figured that out all season.

But then….there was some brilliant defense by Stanford in the Final Four game, something that McGraw is likely drawing up for Tuesday’s game. They contained Griner to 9 points.  The Fighting Irish really needed their fight for UConn, who battled back before Notre Dame senior and scoring leader Natalie Novosel (20 points) took it to OT.  And a local hero….Fenwick’s  own Devereaux Peters…. added 17 points in the effort. Novosec, senior Brittany Mallory (19 points), junior star  and South Bend native Skylar Diggins and Peters will have to have each other’s backs and come up big in Tuesday’s matchup if they hope to avenge their championship loss in 2011.  

In order to win, Notre Dame must:

*Contain Griner

*Contain Sims

*Continue their impressive scoring average (79 ppg), the best in the NCAA

*Think like former NBA star Spud Webb (5’7) Stare opponents in the navel, take their ball away, scamper to the side, and execute a perfect layup  or dunk.

With that said, what’s my prediction?

It’s Baylor’s year, when all is said and done.

Final score: Baylor: 74 Notre Dame: 68

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