The NCAA Tournament is a major staple of the spring sports season.
As the women’s basketball game has finally been able to use the “March Madness” branding this season, one of the major storylines of postseason competition is the Black women starring and leading the way.
There are 12 Black women coaches in this year’s tournament, according to the Women of Color network, including coach Shereka Wright, Nicole Ivey, Natasha Adair, Yolett “Yo” McCuin, Dawn Staley, Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, Felisha Legette-Jack, Kyra Elzy, Tomekia Reed, Adia Barnes, Joni Taylor and Ty Grace.
Staley represents the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in South Carolina. Grace and Reid represent HBCU teams in the tournament, Howard and Jackson State, respectively.
Both the Bison and the Tigers made noise in the first weekend of the tournament, as Howard earned its program’s first NCAA Tournament win in a 55-53 victory over Incarnate Word in the First Four. The Bison’s season came to an end on March 18 in a loss to Staley and South Carolina.
Thanks to the platform of the NCAA Tournament, Reid’s greatness at JSU has been seen by the rest of the nation. Riding a nation-long 21-game winning streak and winning a third-straight SWAC Championship, Jackson State earned a No. 14 seed to face No. 3 LSU in the first round on March 19. It was a matchup President Joe Biden picked to be an upset win, as the Tigers had star Houston transfer Miya Crump and Mississippi State transfer Ameshya Williams. Jackson State was up by 10 in the final minutes of the game before LSU came back to evade the upset in an 83-77 win. In a postgame conversation, LSU coach Kim Mulkey told Reed she wouldn’t be at Jackson State much longer if a larger school makes a contract offer the HBCU can’t match.
“We have to continue to fight for our institution, our conference,” Reed said after the game. “We have to continue to fight for our culture. We have to continue to knock on walls to get respect. We’re knocking on walls. You’ve accomplished some things that haven’t been accomplished in this program, in this conference, but now it’s time to come back and knock the walls down.”
Standout players to watch for the rest of the tournament include South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, Michigan’s Naz Hillmon, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, UCONN’s Azzi Fudd, Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles, Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee, Stanford’s Haley Jones, UGA’s Que Morrison, Florida Gulf Coast’s Kiersten Bell, LSU’s Khayla Pointer, NC State’s Diamond Johnson and Jakia Brown-Turner, and Texas’ Rori Harmon, and Maryland’s big three – Diamond Miller, Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese.