ESPN, NCAA celebrate 25th season


Charlotte Smith's buzzer-beating and NCAA title-clinching 3-pointer. Duke ending Tennessee's quest -- and Chamique Holdsclaw's college career -- for a fourpeat. And who could forget Harvard sending Stanford home in 1998 to become the first 16th seed to topple a No. 1 seed?

Key plays like these easily rank among the highlights of the past 25 years of the women's NCAA Tournament. Beginning Monday, Jan. 9 during ESPN2's Big Monday telecast, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN.com will count down the 25 most memorable moments. Thirty-second vignettes will air in ranking order to celebrate each moment throughout the rest of the 2005-06 season. The No. 25 moment will be unveiled during ESPN2's Oklahoma-Ohio State battle at 7 p.m. ET Monday.

"These vignettes will allow sports fans to relive some of the greatest performances and unforgettable scenarios in NCAA Tournament history," Carol Stiff, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions, said. "This initiative allows us to further our commitment to women's basketball and celebrate its spectacular moments."

The top 25 moments, as voted on by an industry-wide blue ribbon panel consisting of notable players, coaches, journalists and executives from the NCAA and WBCA (see table at right), will culminate during ESPN's women's Final Four coverage.

Top plays ranked 24-11 will continue to be announced during regular-season women's basketball coverage through Selection Monday on March 13. The final 10 moments will air during the NCAA Tournament, which begins Saturday, March 18. Each ESPNU prime-time women's basketball telecast will re-air the vignettes as they are revealed.

ESPN.com also will track the top-25 moments. Additionally, ESPN.com's experts will unveil their lists of the top 25 players of the past 25 years as well as the top five players all-time in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC.

Listed below in chronological order are the featured moments that will be ranked 25 -11, along with the corresponding game schedule. The exact rankings of the moments and the remaining top 10 will be announced in the coming weeks.

West Regional Final (Stanford, Calif.) -- Drake's Lorri Bauman scores 50 of her team's 78 points in an 89-78 loss to Maryland, which still stands as the NCAA Tournament single-game scoring record.

Final Four (Norfolk, Va.) -- The Lady Techsters win the first NCAA title, beating Cheyney 76-62. Janice Lawrence is named the first Most Outstanding Player -- as a sophomore.

Final Four (Austin, Texas) -- In the first Final Four sellout, second-seeded Tennessee wins its first national championship, topping Louisiana Tech.

Final Four (Los Angeles) -- In its third straight Final Four, Virginia was the favorite. But Stanford beat the Cavs 66-65 in the national semifinals en route to the Cardinal's second NCAA title in three years.

East Regional Second Round (Storrs, Conn.) -- Alabama and Duke compete in the longest game in tournament history. The Crimson Tide eventually defeat the Blue Devils, 121-120, in four overtimes.

Final Four (Minneapolis, Minn.) -- Connecticut caps an undefeated season with a win over Tennessee, 70-64.

Final Four (Charlotte, N.C.) -- Tennessee defeats Connecticut, 88-83, in an overtime semifinal game.

Final Four (Cincinnati, Ohio) -- Old Dominion overcomes a 15-point deficit to beat Stanford, 83-82, in an overtime national semifinal matchup.

East Regional Final (Greensboro, N.C.) -- No. 3 seed Duke pulls off an upset over three-time defending champion Tennessee, 69-63.

West Regional Final (Portland, Ore.) -- Rutgers defeats Georgia 59-51, making C. Vivian Stringer the first coach in NCAA history (men or women) to lead three different schools to the Final Four.

West Regional Semifinals (Spokane, Wash.) -- Jackie Stiles, the NCAA all-time scoring leader, pours in 41 points for fifth-seeded Southwest Missouri State to upset Duke 81-71 in the Sweet 16.

Midwest Regional Semifinals (Norman, Okla.) -- In perhaps the most controversial call in NCAA Tournament history, Tennessee's Tasha Butts is awarded free throws with the score tied and just two-tenths of a second remaining in the Sweet 16 after a loose-ball foul is called on Baylor. Butts sinks both and the Lady Vols advance to the Elite Eight.

Final Four (New Orleans, La.) -- Tennessee's LaToya Davis steals the ball off a turnover by LSU's Temeka Johnson with just 1.6 seconds remaining to eliminate local favorite LSU, 52-50.

Philadelphia Regional (Second Round) -- Pat Summitt records win No. 880 against Purdue, giving her the most victories in NCAA Division I basketball history, passing UNC's Dean Smith.

Final Four (Indianapolis, Ind.) -- Michigan State trails by 16 points with 16 minutes remaining -- and comes back to defeat Tennessee, 68-64 in the national semifinals.