Brent Cahwee, ndnsports.com, in Entertainment. Discussion »
In a sport which rarely sees upsets on the magnitude that the men's college basketball tournament experiences, Shoni Schimmel and the Louisville Cardinals did just that in the women's "Sweet 16" round competition of the NCAA's Division I national tournament. The Cardinals upset the number one overall seed of the tournament and defending national champions Baylor Bears by a final score of 82-81 in what some sports analyst are calling the biggest upset in women's college basketball history.
Shoni Schimmel of the Umatilla reservation in Oregon
What makes this victory so unique isn't the fact that women's college basketball hasn't ever seen women's teams go undefeated before or teams with less than a handful of losses over a few years, UConn, Tennessee. What makes this victory so special is who it was against as well. The All Everything athlete known as Brittany Griner, who has projected women's basketball into mainstream sports coverage like no other athlete before her. At a towering 6' 8" inches tall, Griner commands respect in preparation so much that teams have thrown every possible offense and defense to neutralize her presence only to come up with the same results as teams before them, a loss. Over the past two seasons the Bears have a combined 74-2 record that includes a perfect season last year but remember, this is "March Madness", it's what the NCAA brands their tournament that I am sure they coined to represent the men's college basketball game. Upsets just don't happen in women's basketball, we see the same 4 to 5 programs in the women's championship game year in and year out that has frankly put the women's tournament on snooze control.
But apparently not getting the memo that teams are supposed to politely take the ceremonial loss to Baylor, so the NCAA and its sponsors can use Griner in every marketing promo on their march to the Final Four games, were the Louisville Cardinals and Indian country's very own Shoni Schimmel.
Schimmel, a junior guard who comes from the Umatilla reservation in Oregon, has had a well documented basketball career that started on the reservation and now has taken her to the biggest stage of college basketball. She has even had a documentary made about her career to this point called "Off the Rez," that has won a few awards and it was even shown at the prestigious Tribeca Film festival in New York back in 2011. When I watching this game and watched Shoni handle the ball like a Bob Cousy and launch three point shots from the range that only the likes of NBA three point specialist shoot from I was sitting there thinking to myself that this isn't shocking at all, anyone who has had the opportunity to follow her career will know this is what she has done all of her career and even the reason she was recruited to a Louisville team that knows it will never be able to recruit the likes of Skylar Diggins or Brittney Griners of the world. This Louisville team and other non-powerhouse schools know they have to find a diamond in the rough if you will if they hope to ever compete against the traditional power schools that seemingly not only get the top recruits every year but get all of of top recruits which leaves schools having to recruit the old fashion way by pounding the pavement and thumbing through hours of homemade sent in video.
But Shoni was born for big stages, having played in big games all of her career, winning and losing in them, but more so learning and progressing as a player. In her freshman year at Louisville you could see her potential that all freshman exhibit but you could also see the rawness of her talent that needed to be controlled. Back then she led her team to a Sweet Sixteen appearance near her home town. Now in her junior year, Shoni has learned how to control that talent and exhibit a leadership on the court that this Louisville squad has embraced throughout the season. Shoni's talent has garnered her on many national awards watch lists and conference accolades but this season it has been her ability to get other player's involved, including her younger sister Jude who is now a sophomore point guard with the squad who is coming off of the bench and contributing quite a bit for Louisville.
Schimmel sisters Shoni and Jude
NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament
Live tonight on ESPN at 9:00 pm edt
Whether the Cardinals advance further in the NCAA tournament or lose, it has been wonderful season for Shoni and the Cardinals. In team sports, you can see that it is a process, first you have to just there and then the next challenge is to get back and win a few games, and then the final challenge will be to accomplish those goals and win it all. I think we will see even better things from Shoni and Louisville and having slayed the proverbial dragon, there is only one way for this team to go and that is straight to the top through the leadership and toughness of their guard from a small reservation in Oregon.
How tough will this team be next year? In a postgame interview on ESPN, Shoni was asked about her confidence in being able to go at 6' 8" Brittany Griner where she made an acrobatic backward over the head bucket with Griner trying to block the shot.
“It's my mentality to keep going at her. I mean she is Brittany Griner, but I'm Shoni Schimmel so I keep going at her.”
posted April 2, 2013 8:30 am edt