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Caution: Women’s Basketball Manifesto

9:29 AM EST on January 23, 2008

Sure, I will probably have to turn in a man card for admitting this, and I run the risk of being knifed in my sleep by Cardboard Jim Traber for publicly acknowledging it as a sport, but I'm starting to dig women's basketball.

That's right, I said it:  I am enjoying women's basketball.

As an OSU fan, I have little choice.  While I would appreciate being satisfied at watching my football team dismantle a middle of the pack team in the worst major conference at a bowl named after a sponsor who provides a product I have no concept of, or being okay with Sean Sutton swiftly destroying his father's legacy in the men's game, I'm not.  Truth be told, right now women's basketball is the one thing I can get behind.

For the 99% of you reading this who spend no time following the sport, it might surprise you to learn that Oklahoma State Cowgirls are currently 16-1 and ranked in the teens of both polls.  (Yes, they have polls for Women's Basketball, too.)  Last week, the team destroyed the #6 team in the country (some team called "OU") in a soldout Gallagher-Iba Arena.  (It should be noted that the men's game played at GIA earlier in the day did not fill up despite national coverage related to Bobby Knight's attempt to reach 900 career victories.)  In that game, sophomore point guard Andrea Riley had a breakout performance by scoring 45 points, then a few days later iced the Big XII preseason favorite, Texas A&M, with the game deciding three pointer.

It is this Andrea Riley who has created the energy around a sport and program that is generally a complete afterthought.

To be fair, OSU fans generally get behind any sport that generates pride for the school.  Also, football.  People attend OSU wrestling matches to watch grown men wearing tights writhe around on the floor together, while cheering when the P.A. announcer belts out "Ride'em Cowboy" (afterwards, they go home and vote for Jim Inhofe after he blames "Hollywood" for pushing a gay agenda).  We rally behind the baseball team when they make a run at the College World Series and even pretend that Golf is a sport.  All this because the teams are good.

That was never the case with the female ballplayers.  During the Dick Halterman and Julie Goodenough eras, women's basketball was little more than an excuse for the largely conservative student body to bitch about Title IX.  This was particularly the case in Goodenough's final season when the team won just two games in conference play.  Then, they hired Kurt Budke.

In quite possibly, the only good personnel decision the university has enacted since T. Boone Pickens purchased the public institution (including Burns Hargis' elevation to President), OSU has seen unheard of success during the new coaches limited time in Stillwater.  Of course, it did not start out well.  In his first year at the helm, the team actually looked worse and managed to finish conference play winless.  This just made the turnaround that much sweeter.

Somehow, Budke convinced an extremely successful high school point guard to join the bottom feeder of the Big XII conference.  With Riley's commitment, the Cowgirls' fortunes changed.  She brought a franchise touch to the program.  On the floor, she brings a presence that most men's programs could use.  She protects the ball, makes her shots, and provides her teammates opportunities to succeed.  Basically, she's exactly what everyone thought JamesOn Curry would become.

As a freshman, Riley oversaw the Cowgirls more than doubling their prior season win total and took the OSU women to their first NCAA Tournament berth since...still looking...1996.  Now, they appear to be one of the elite teams in the sport.  Considering women do not leave early for the pros, who knows what she will have done before she leaves.  At this point, I think she may end up usurping Byron Eaton as Sean Sutton's starting point guard.

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