Tipping off at 3:30 p.m. and into the early evening of Sunday, April 2, LSU and Iowa’s basketball programs duked it out in the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. It was a strange sight, with none of the women’s basketball “Blue Bloods” competing in the championship game.
In lieu of the perennial powerhouses, namely Connecticut, Stanford, and South Carolina (who Iowa handily defeated 78-73 in the National Semifinal), Iowa and LSU made their first appearances in the national championship. It was a star-studded matchup, with the likes of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and her deep three-point precision, and LSU’s dynamic duo of Angel Reese and Alexis Morris. Iowa was considered the favorite.
Caitlin Clark strutted into the arena already a fan-favorite and an American cultural phenom, being compared to the great Stephen Curry of the NBA. The women’s basketball tournament was getting just as much buzz as the men’s tournament for the first time ever, and the ball hadn’t even tipped.
When play started, the unexpected happened. LSU was firing on all cylinders. They consolidated a five-point lead in the first quarter and did not stop after the first intermission. Iowa found itself in foul trouble early, with Caitlin Clark receiving a controversial technical foul after tossing the ball in frustration. On top of the shock the basketball world felt towards the box score, this was the first point of controversy: the officiating.
Critics pointed towards the plethora of personal fouls called on Iowa and the lack thereof when it came to LSU. Many cited “special treatment” as being given to LSU coach Kim Mulkey after she received no reprimand after physically pushing a referee in an emotional frenzy. The dissension did not relent, however. LSU comfortably cruised to victory.
With less than 30 seconds remaining and the point deficit amounting to nearly 20 points, Angel Reese followed Caitlin Clark and taunted her, pointing to her own ring finger, expressing that she will be donning a championship ring and her opponent will not. Many called this “classless,” but others pointed out how Clark had done the same celebration throughout the tournament. Amid the hysteria the treated political and social lines, First Lady Jill Biden invited both LSU and Iowa to the White House, the first time both the champion and runner-ups have received invitations, and Angel Reese immediately used her platform to express her opinion, stating that the dual-invitation was “a joke.” She eventually agreed to “do what’s best for the team,” and the controversy has died down.
We are starting to see a new era in Women’s hoops. The final had more viewership than the NHL and many other professional men’s leagues. The women’s final four had more buzz than the men’s, and superstars like Cailtin Clark, Angel Reese, and Paige Bueckers are now shaping the face of the game.