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Saturday Sports: NCAA Basketball Championship, Harvard Fencing Coach Scandal


It's time for sports.


SIMON: The Final Four - finally here. The women's tourney began last night, men's tonight. Right here, right now, Howard Bryant of ESPN. Thanks very much for being with us, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Hey, Scott. Good morning.

SIMON: Good morning. So last night, Notre Dame knocked off UConn once again, 81 - they're making a habit of this - 81-76. Brianna Turner had a great game.

BRYANT: She had a great game. And remember when we were talking not just a year, year and a half ago that - and, in fact, it was last year when we were talking about how women's basketball was just so boring. And college basketball belonged to UConn, and nobody could beat them and - yeah, look. Notre Dame, Scott...

SIMON: You said that.

BRYANT: I actually did not say that.

SIMON: I don't recall I ever felt that way.

BRYANT: (Laughter) I did not say that. I said, you got to play these games. And it seems to me that in a transition that college - women's college basketball is in, as the game becomes more and more and more competitive, you're going to have better teams. And Notre Dame is doing exactly - they're the defending champions, and they had a great, great tournament. They came in last night. They were trailing by eight in the fourth quarter. And it was just an amazing, you know, battle at the end. And, of course, you know, Arike Ogunbowale is just the - she's a star. She hit the winning shot last year in overtime against UConn, and she drops 13 in a 10-minute quarter last night. And so it's - this is a championship team playing like champions, and now they're playing for another, you know, back-to-back final.

SIMON: Baylor beat Oregon, also by five points.

BRYANT: And Baylor - once again, these - this is the great thing about this tournament. On the one hand, you have - I think there's so much more uncertainty in the men's game right now because the women - you know, the best teams showed up here. And if you look at what Baylor - they've been a great team all season long. They're a one seed as well. And so - and Lauren Cox, Kalani Brown - I mean, they're - this is going to be a great tournament. And it's going to be a really great final because I don't know who's going to win, and I don't think that there's a - you know, a real prohibitive favorite. I'm going to go with the defending champs and stick with Muffet McGraw and Notre Dame.

SIMON: And Muffet McGraw won a lot of admiration for her outspokenness at a press conference this week about the lack of women in leadership positions in sports.

BRYANT: Yeah, and she did. And she came out, and she said, look; I'm not going to hire any more - no more men. I'm not hiring any men. And she got all kinds - she got flak for that, and it became a national story. And she got all kinds of admiration for it, as well, for coming out and saying it. I thought what was very interesting about it is that if you look at the statistics that she was presenting from Title IX - that you had 90 percent of women's basketball coaches were women 40 years ago, and now it's down to 50 percent. And she's like, listen; we need more representation, and this is - I'm going to advocate for this.

And what's funny about it is that you have - in the real world, this is happening all the time, just that men aren't advertising it. So I didn't see what the big deal was. And not only that, it's not as if she said that no men should be hired. She said that's not what she's going to do for her program because she feels like there's more representation that is needed, and she's going to do her part. I didn't think it was that big a deal. I was happy that she said it, though.

SIMON: Hours from now, Auburn faces off against Virginia.

BRYANT: We've got the clear underdogs and the clear favorites in this, but I don't see that. I think any of these four teams can win. I think Texas Tech can beat Michigan State. And I think Virginia, you know, is, you know, the - Virginia is the team that was a great team all season, No. 1 at one point as well. But I was just thinking college basketball - I think all four teams can win. And I just don't see anybody with that much of an advantage. I'm going to go with Michigan State simply because I do like Tom Izzo. But I - once again, it wouldn't surprise me if any of the four teams won the championship.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, Tom Izzo doesn't get to dribble.


SIMON: Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: Oh, my pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.