It seems really odd, but it really is a national championship. It's just not that national championship. When one must go through teams out of the Big East, SEC, and Pac-10, it really does warrant praise. Toledo's 76-68 victory over the USC Women of Troy (don't call 'em Trojans).
I really don't want to discount this victory, because when Naama Shafir drops in 40 of the team's 76 points (that's 52.6 percent of the total — in a championship), that's big stuff. But what the heck was going on with the USC team? They only brought nine girls to Toledo. For most of the game, they played only six. For most of the tournament, they played only six. They brought in a seventh girl to foul on purpose in the final minute. And they kept winning on the road until this game.
But the difference, other than Shafir's inspired play, was the crowd. And this is your story too. The record-breaking attendance was 7,301, a laughable number, since that's one more than capacity. How did one extra person get through the turnstiles? Who knows, but that stays as the record.
USC's last three wins before the championship — BYU, Colorado, Illinois State — had a combined attendance of 7,029, which was 272 fewer fans than the WNIT Championship attendance (or a rough estimate of a Syracuse WNIT game). I'm sure they read on the news, or perhaps even this blog, that the attendance was going to be what it was. But they likely were oblivious to what it would feel like. It didn't initially rattle USC, since they did maintain small leads for periods of time in both halves. So maybe it was the six-woman rotation that eventually collapsed, but what forever reason another "favorite" went down.
Delaware, Auburn, Alabama, Syracuse, Charlotte, and Southern California. All of their seasons ended in Savage Arena. And you can thank Eastern Michigan for these shenanigans. Their upset of Toledo in the MAC Tournament semifinals effectively ended their chances of making the NCAA tournament. You have to believe they'd have been a favorite to grab an at-large even with a loss to Bowling Green.
Hey, it all worked out. BG went to Columbus and lost to Georgia Tech in the first round. Toledo got six additional home games. Who knows how much — if any — revenue this will kick in, given the expenses and bidding it took to get all these games. But the buzz is definitely there, and the MAC suddenly has a dynamite set of programs to contend with on the mid-major national scene next year. The Lady Rockets return all but two seniors: Melissa Goodall and Jessica Williams, their second- and third-leading scorers. Goodall is also their top rebounder, but Shafir the WNIT MVP returns as does All-Tournament Team finalist Yolanda Richardson. Look out for CMU and EMU, who bring back some of the mainstays, and of course there's always Bowling Green and Kent State.
You can tell by the RPI that the MAC is far better in women's basketball than it is in men's, and this is what I hope people take away from this: good women's basketball is just like good men's basketball. When they're on, they're just as fun to watch. If they're bad, then it's as painful to watch just like bad basketball, bad football, bad baseball, bad golf, and bad badminton. Don't let the bosoms and ponytails fool you.
Future's bright in this sport for the conference. Take advantage soon.