Posted 23 hours ago | By Jeff Mezydlo
It’s not easy to put together a list of the greatest women’s NCAA Tournament champions. Each brought something special to the table and was worthy of its greatness. And, we’re not just talking Tennessee and Connecticut.
Here’s our ranking of the 25 greatest NCAA women’s basketball champions.
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25. South Carolina (2017)
Paced by 23 points and 10 rebounds from star A’ja Wilson, South Carolina beat Mississippi State 67-55 to win the program’s first, and to date only, national championship. Under the guidance of Dawn Staley, one of the most respected coaches in all of college basketball, the Gamecocks finished 33-4 and won their final 11 games to cap the historic season. Wilson, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, averaged 17.9 points and 7.8 rebounds that seasons as a junior.
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24. Notre Dame (2001)
This was legendary Irish coach Muffet McGraw’s first of two national championship squads. Ruth Riley, the national player of the year who averaged 18.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and remains one of the best defenders in the history of the college game, was the undisputed star for the 34-2 squad that did have to work to beat Purdue in the national title game. The two power programs from Indiana went toe-to-toe in the final after the Irish dropped Connecticut by 15 in the semifinals. Notre Dame overcame an early double-digit deficit and Riley tied the game late, then hit the go-ahead free throws with 5.8 seconds left.
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23. Tennessee (1989)
The first dynasty in NCAA women’s basketball history resided in Knoxville, Tenn., under late legend Pat Summitt. The Lady Volunteers won their first national title, in somewhat surprising fashion, in 1987, but it was this 1988-89 squad that proved there was really something special going on at Tennessee. This Vols finished 35-2, made a fourth straight Final Four appearance, and beat fellow powerhouse Auburn 76-60 in the final. Bridgette Gordon, still considered among the greats in women’s basketball history, was the team’s undisputed star.
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22. Tennessee (2007)
This was the first of Tennessee’s most recent back-to-back winning title teams. During the regular season, the Vols beat the likes of Stanford, Notre Dame, and Connecticut. Though they lost three games prior to the NCAA Tournament, Pat Summitt’s group stepped up when it mattered most. Led by superstar Candace Parker (19.6 points per game, 9.8 assists per game), Tennessee showed its mettle by overcoming double-digit deficits to North Carolina in the national semifinals and Rutgers in the national title game to win its seventh championship.
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21. Baylor (2005)
The first of coach Kim Mulkey’s three national title teams at Baylor. In her fifth season as coach, Mulkey, the first in women’s college basketball history to win a national title as a player, assistant coach, and head coach, had already turned the Baylor program around by the 2004-05 season. Paced by star Sophia Young, the Bears went 33-3 but overcame a 15-point semifinal deficit to exact some revenge on LSU from a regular-season loss. They then rolled past Michigan State 84-62 in the national championship game.
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