Rising Stars Celebrating the Ever-Growing Madness of Women's College Basketball.
Rising Stars Celebrating the Ever-Growing Madness of Women’s College Basketball.

It’s not enough that last year’s NCAA tournament was so great, with all the exciting games, interesting characters, and scandals that kept people talking all summer.

That should be the beginning, not the end, of the women’s game if it wants to take advantage of the huge interest in women’s sports. If the game is to keep growing and finally hit its full, long-overdue promise, this season needs to be even better and more exciting.

Luckily, everything is in place for that to happen. Plus some.

There are a lot of interesting stories in the ActionGamesNow Sports preseason poll for women’s basketball. Of course, Angel Reese and LSU are back to defend, and Kim Mulkey is sure to wow us all with more game-day clothes that don’t fit any description or fashion rule. You can be sure that Caitlin Clark has been upset about Iowa’s loss in the title game all summer, and she will soon start yelling and staring at other players.

The Gamecocks lost Aliyah Boston and the rest of the group that took them to the national title in 2022 and a 71-3 record over the last two seasons. They are now in the strange position of being the enemy. Stanford and Cameron Brink are trying to get back on their feet. It will be important for teams like Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Miami to show that their long runs weren’t just a fluke.

And the best part is that Paige Bueckers is back. That means UConn will be too.

“I want some tough competition and some upsets. Hopefully it will be us upsetting other people, since we’re no longer the ones being hunted.” Coach Dawn Staley of South Carolina told USA TODAY Sports, “We’re the hunters.” “We’re okay with the fact that people aren’t talking about us as much.”

But people are talking about the game for women. Now more than ever. All of those talks need to go on and get stronger.

All women’s sports are going through big changes right now. It seems like a new record for the most people at an NCAA or professional game is broken every week. Media companies and sponsors want to be a part of the excitement. Players like Reese, Clark, and Bueckers are becoming as popular in the business world as male players used to be.

But because college sports are short-lived, it can be hard to build on success. Playing time ends or players move on. Coaches go somewhere else. One accident can ruin a team’s chances of winning the title.

That’s why this time of year is so wonderful.

Aside from Boston, all of the players who made last season so exciting are back. Some may be in different places or have different jobs. Hailey Van Lith, for example, moved from Louisville to LSU. Last year, Kamilla Cardoso of South Carolina was named the SEC’s Sixth Woman of the Year. She will be asked to do more.

Normal fans, on the other hand, won’t have to look for new stars. There will be no need for them to wait until the season starts to decide if it’s worth their time. They already know because they were there last year. They just need to pick up where they left off. 

For the WNBA, this season is just as important as it is for college golf. San Francisco is the first new team to be named by the league. They will play in 2025. At least one more team will likely be announced soon. The WNBA has badly needed more roster spots, which comes with having more teams.

In the past few years, there have been too many players who were great in college who couldn’t get into the WNBA. (Look at Brea Beal.) That doesn’t do much to get people interested at any level. You might only have a year or two to watch a player, so why pay attention to them? Fans who join now know there’s a better chance they’ll see these stars at the next level too.

The wrong way to look at it is as if the NCAA tournament was just the end of last season. Big and important changes began, and this season can only build on those changes.

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