Slideshow: Nashville Stars
It's lacking fiddles and banjos, but Chiney Ogwumike and the Stanford Athletic Department's <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zimo4etmKMM" target="new"> "N-E-R-D-S (#NerdAnthem)"</a> is an actual song, so it's the obvious choice for this category. Yes, it's the only song we have to choose from, but the clever lyrics and celebrity cameos make it a winner in any case.
When music and Madness mix ...
With the NCAA women's Final Four set to take over Nashville -- the capital of country music -- we think some of the remaining teams and players deserve a little hardware, Academy of Country Music Awards-style. So move over, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, we've got the nominees for Nashville's new royalty.
Entertainer of the Year
While the ACM's highest honor could go anyone's way, the Final Four MOP (the closest thing to an "Entertainer of the Year" award in college basketball) seems destined for one of the three Naismith Trophy finalists in Nashville -- Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, UConn's Breanna Stewart or Notre Dame's Kayla McBride. All three have had sensational seasons, on par with Taylor Swift's most impressive of years, and each took her conference's player of the year honors. But which player can step up when it's needed most? That can only be answered in Nashville.
Best New Artist
With country newcomers Kip Moore and Justin Moore vying neck-and-neck for the ACM honors, Maryland freshman Lexie Brown stands out from her fellow Final Four rookies. Averaging 10.1 points and 4.2 assists per game, Brown is the Terps' second-leading scorer and has started all but five games this season. The daughter of former NBA player and current Sacramento Kings assistant Dee Brown, the 5-foot-9 guard made the ACC all-freshman team and was one of just two freshmen to be named to the Nancy Lieberman Award watch list in January. Brown scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in Maryland's 76-73 win over Louisville to advance to the Final Four.
Single Record of the Year
Nominated in this category at the ACM's, Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart" could be the theme song for anyone whose daughter was on a team that played UConn this season. The team's 35.0-point average margin of victory was the best in Division I, and no team managed to finish within 10 points of the Huskies. Entering the national semifinals, the Huskies are just shy of breaking the 2001-02 squad's record of a 35.4-point average margin.
Songwriter of the Year
Much like a good songwriter, a good coach can create a hit and be successful no matter who she's working with or where they are. With star Skylar Diggins graduating after the 2013 season and the move to the ACC, questions emerged about how Notre Dame would fare this season. No one dreamed the Irish, ranked No. 6 in the AP preseason poll and No. 7 in the USA Today preseason poll, would complete an undefeated regular season. However, under the leadership of coach Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame has won all but two games by double digits.
Group of the Year
With both UConn and Notre Dame boasting undefeated records heading into the Final Four, this award is even more difficult to call than picking between the Zac Brown Band and Little Big Town. But unlike the voters at the Academy of Country Music, we could get a head-to-head showdown with the award on the line if both the Huskies and the Irish advance past their formidable semifinal opponents. For now, we might just have to call this one a tie.
Event of the Year
While the "Vocal Event of the Year" trophy might go to Florida Georgia Line and Nelly for their "Cruise" remix, we hand our Event of the Year award to UConn and Stanford. Meeting in November in Storrs, No.1 UConn took on then-No. 3 Stanford in a much-hyped early-season showdown. The Huskies cruised to a 76-57 victory in what Stanford fans have to hope is not a preview of the upcoming semifinal rematch. "We'll be a different team come December, March, April," Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike promised after that game. "The goal is to grow from this experience." An honorable mention for Event of the Year goes to the four-overtime classic between Kentucky and Baylor in December in which the Wildcats held off the Lady Bears 133-130.
Song of the Year
It's lacking fiddles and banjos, but Chiney Ogwumike and the Stanford Athletic Department's "N-E-R-D-S (#NerdAnthem)" is an actual song, so it's the obvious choice for this category. Yes, it's the only song we have to choose from, but the clever lyrics and celebrity cameos make it a winner in any case.