The NCAA Women's basketball tournament begins Sunday and the Mercer Bears will face the number one seed South Carolina in the first round. Avery Braxton caught up with former 13WMAZ sports reporter and current ESPN play-by-play commenter, Courtney Lyle, to get her thoughts on the game and the tournament. This interview has been condensed.
AVERY: Welcome back Central Georgia, Avery Braxton here with a special guest and someone you are probably very use to seeing way back when, Courtney Lyle. She now works for ESPN as a play-by-play commenter doing softball, volleyball and women's basketball. She's hanging out at the women's basketball tournament this year and she is calling our Mercer Bears on Sunday. Courtney, what have you liked about Mercer and South Carolina in this basketball game?
COURTNEY: It's going to be really exciting, I was really excited when I got the draw of Mercer because I remember covering Susie Gardner when I was working at WMAZ and it was really great to get the chance to talk to her about her team this year. Props to her because she did a phenomenal job of taking a step back after last season when they only won eight games and realizing what this team needed to get back on track, because she has established a winning program at Mercer. A team that goes to the NCAA tournament almost every year now. That was really cool to talk to her and see how she has brought in some quality people, but also some really good basketball players which is why they were able to have such a dominating win in the Southern Conference Tournament Championship game.
AVERY: What do you think of Mercer's chances against South Carolina? Obviously Dawn Staley has built a behemoth of a program over there.
COURTNEY: South Carolina is a very good team. There's no doubt about that. They're the number one seed. They have Aliyah Boston who is one of the finalists for the Naismith player of the year. She's fantastic. She's not afraid of physicality. That's definitely something that Mercer is going to be challenged in. They've got to stay out of foul trouble and limit her touches if possible.
AVERY: One thing that's obviously been a big talking point is the inequities between the men's tournament and the women's tournament. The NCAA came out and said they're going to fix things. I've seen the new weight room that they've got, but just as someone who works with the women's team so much, what did you think of some of the inequities that you saw on social media and online?
COURTNEY: You've seen the pictures in the difference in the weight room from the women's tournament to the men's tournament. It was embarrassing. The NCAA came out and said that and said that they fell short. I think props to the student athletes for not being afraid to speak up. Don't be afraid to speak up when you see something that you know isn't right. ... I don't think it should take away from our game and it's not going to because these women have worked hard to play in this tournament. Yeah, they were able to step away for a second to call out something that wasn't right, but they're going to get right back in and get focused.
AVERY: Who is in your Final Four and who is your national champion on the women's side?
COURTNEY: I've been impressed with South Carolina first of all and I think that they're playing really good basketball right now because of what we talked about earlier Avery that they're going back through Aliyah Boston in the post.
Stanford has been fantastic. Tara VanderVeer has done a great job and they've had a lot of craziness in their season where they had to relocate outside the state of California to play some of their games this year.
My pick right now, Texas A&M. If you look at them, they are a Final Four team. Everybody's kind of got their eye on UCONN too. You can't count out Paige Bueckers because she is a phenomenal athlete. She raises her game when it comes against a ranked opponent. She is one of the best players in the nation and she's just a freshman.
AVERY: Alright, thank you for all the expertise. Courtney Lyle thank you for hanging out with us. You can catch Courtney call our Mercer Bears taking on South Carolina on ESPN. That game is at 6:00.