20 Women You Need to Know from March Madness
Let's be real here. The NCAA tournament and March Madness in general is pretty much a boys' club.
The college women play at nearly the same time and suffer the same lack of respect given to the WNBA. That's not to say it's right, just that it's undeniably true.
Women in the sports media have made tremendous progress in recent years, but they are still relatively scarce in the basketball world. Still, strides have been made and women on the sidelines and even in the broadcasting chair are becoming more common.
So it's not all bad news for the ladies and the men who love them. And it's not just women in broadcasting attracting attention during March Madness. There are also, of course, the gorgeous cheerleaders distracting fans on the sidelines.
Not to mention a few other headline-making ladies.
Here are 20 women you need to know from March Madness:
20. Samantha Stage
Samantha Stage made some headlines recently went Buzzfeed declared her and her fiancé Andrew Smith, a senior starter at Butler, "March Madness' Cutest Love Story."
They make a pretty convincing case for these two lovebirds, so I'm not inclined to disagree with them. Although I haven't read about any other March Madness love stories to compare it to, but whatever.
19. University of Miami Cheeleaders
When I asked my Twitter followers which women of March Madness were their favorites, the overwhelming response was "CHEERLEADERS!"
Since I can't make this list exclusively cheerleaders, I picked out a few contenders for the final four.
The first of which being the Miami Hurricanes cheerleaders. All in all an absolutely stunning bunch of women.
Colorado isn't even in the tournament anymore. And Ralphie, the Buffaloes' mascot, wasn't even invited! Suppose if she's too difficult to handle on a football field, she might find a basketball court a bit limiting.
But unlike most of the live animal mascots of tournament teams, and despite her rather masculine name, Ralphie is actually a girl. Which means she totally counts.
17. Heather Cox
Heather Cox is one of the bevy of sports-minded beauties employed by ESPN. According to her official bio, she covers predominantly college sports, in addition to the NBA and the WNBA.
Cox has been working for the network since 1994, but often pulls double duty cover the Olympics for NBC and the NCAA tournament for CBS Sports.
16. Indiana Cheerleaders
There are too many busted brackets this year to even begin to cover the many upsets in 2013. One of the few No. 1 seeds still standing is Indiana University.
Which, on a side note, is pretty great news for me—as someone who picked the Hoosiers to play in the championship game in most of her brackets!
If all goes according to (my) plan, we'll be seeing a lot more of the Hoosiers cheerleaders before this madness comes to an end.
15. Doris Burke
You certainly wouldn't know it to look at her, but Doris Burke has been working for ESPN since 1991.
She's always specialized in college sports and has covered NCAA hoops for countless local affiliates over the years. In addition to covering the tournament, Burke also works as a sideline reporter for NBA telecasts.
In 2000 she became the first woman in history to call a Knicks radio/television broadcast. Not. Too. Shabby.
14. Duke Cheeleaders
As much as we want to count Duke out of the tournament, most of us have been occupying space on this planet long enough to know that the Blue Devils are sometimes down, but they're never out.
The team that everyone, except Duke fans, loves to hate is not only surviving March Madness, thus far is thriving.
Sure it'll be a national tragedy if Coach K wins another, but at least we get to watch these beauties (with brains!) cheering them on. I know that's not much solace, but it's something.
13. LaChina Robinson
Like so many broadcasters, LaChina Robinson is anywhere and everywhere covering hoops. Probably because she really knows her stuff!
Robinson was a four-year starter at Wake Forest and spent years in a coaching and recruiting capacity after graduation.
Since then she has made her way into the sports media and has been covering both college and professional hoops. Robinson has predominantly worked for ESPN, but has also had stints at Fox and Turner Sports.
12. Oregon Cheerleaders
The Oregon cheerleaders have long been lauded as one of the greatest things about college sports. Like all of college sports.
So it just didn't seem right to exclude them from this list, even though methinks the Ducks will be bested by Louisville in the tournament.
Nonetheless! They are still some of the finest women March Madness has to offer. So let's just take a little time to appreciate them!
11. Brooke Weisbrod
Brooke Weisbrod has been working a a college basketball analyst since 2003, covering both men's and women's action. She calls syndicated games for the network and also serves as a producer.
Before going into broadcasting, Weisbrod was actually a college athlete herself. She was a standout star at Costal Carolina University and became its second player to ever total (no less than) 1,000 points, 300 rebounds and 200 assists.
10. Elena Delle Donne
Elena Delle Donne isn't covering the NCAA tournament for one of the major sports media outlets. Nor is she cheering on any of the teams from the sidelines.
Delle Donne is right up in the thick of things, competing in the women's tournament for the University of Delaware.
March Madness for the ladies is just getting started, and things are already going quite well for her. Delaware defeated WVU in the first round by 13 points, thanks in no small part to the 33 points scored by Delle Donne.
9. Shannon Spake
Shannon Spake has been working for ESPN since 2007 and was hired predominately to cover NASCAR for ESPN2. But apparently she's showed some promise because they've been letting her out of the pit more and more.
Spake has been working as a sideline reporter for SEC basketball in recent years and even makes the occasional appearance on SportsCenter.
Keep your eyes pealed for Spake during the NCAA tournament this year, particularly if Florida continues to advance!
8. Louisville Cheerleaders
In one of the most unpredictable years in the history of the NCAA tournament, if there was any team considered to be a "favorite," it is probably Louisville.
Although I'm using "favorite" in the loosest sense of the word, especially considering the region Louisville landed in. That being said—the Cardinals are still standing.
And so are their crazy ridiculously hot cheerleaders. So even if you're no fan of Louisville, you've still got something to root for!
7. Allie LaForce
Former beauty queen Allie LaForce has made a second life for herself in the sports media.
After working her way up through local Midwest affiliates—she left her anchor job at Fox 8 in Cleveland in late 2012—she eventually landed a national gig with CBS Sports.
She is currently the co-host of Lead Off on the network. LaForce predominately covers college sports for CBS and is a real up-and-coming talent.
6. Olivia Wilde
Actress Olivia Wilde has yet to be seen at an NCAA tournament game during March Madness, but it's only a matter of time if the Jayhawks continue to advance.
She and her boyfriend, Jason Sudekis, a longtime cast member of Saturday Night Live, have been spotted at a number of KU games over the last year.
Clearly their allegiance is to KU, but they're just big basketball fans in general. The engaged pair have been spotted at a number of NBA games in recent months as well.
5. Jaime Maggio
As someone who "reports" on female members of the sports media on a regular basis, I can say with absolute certainty that Jaime Maggio's star is on the rise.
A few years ago I couldn't have picked her out of a crowd, and now she's one of the standout broadcasting favorites on the West Coast. Maggio is a reporter for Fox Sports West, as well as the NFL Network.
She also punches a time card for Turner Sports and TNT to cover basketball—particularly the NCAA tournament.
4. Amanda Marcum Enfield
Pulled from the "Is she really going out with him?" files.
Before the NCAA tournament got into full swing, there was certainly another kind of madness sweeping the nation. Marcum Madness!
It didn't take long for the sports media to pounce on model Amanda Marcum Enfield, who ust so happens to be the wife of Florida Gulf Coast University coach Andy Enfield.
The model has appeared on the cover of high profile magazines such as Elle and Vogue, not to mention a magazine that basketball fans may be a bit more familiar with—Maxim.
Now I'm not saying Ms. Amanda is the reason for FGCU's impressive performance in the tournament this year. But I'm not not saying that either.
3. Rachel Nichols
Broadcaster Rachel Nichols isn't just a woman of March Madness, she's one of the most prominent female members of the sports media.
Since leaving ESPN, Nichols has been a fixture on the Turner Sports scene. Expect her to be covering everything and anything the networks carry, in terms of sports, for years to come.
2. Ohio State Cheerleaders
Ohio State has been one of the few teams in the tournament which has inspired nearly universal confidence in its ability to make it to the Elite Eight—at least.
And so far it hasn't disappointed. Also not disappointing? The Buckeyes' cheerleaders. I'm sorry, but that girl is so stunning that I might think I was dreaming if we ever met in real life. Then I'd realize I wasn't and I'd feel very, very bad about myself.
1. Samantha Ponder
In the last year ESPN has lost high-profile talents like Erin Andrews, Michelle Beadle, Rachel Nichols, and Jenn Brown.
Nearly every noteworthy female on air talent that works outside the studio. It was immediately clear that Samantha Ponder is the heir apparent to…well…pretty much all of them at this point.
Initially she was hired by the network to cover games for the ESPN-owned Longhorn Network, but hardly a year later she's one of the most promising young talents on staff.
So you better enjoy Mrs. Ponder during March Madness this year, because she may very well be working for Fox within the year!