After an unprecedented season, women’s college basketball returns this week. To learn more, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with Debbie Antonelli.

On Tuesday, the analyst will broadcast UNC Charlotte at NC State on the ACC Network. On Thursday, she’ll do No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 8 Virginia Tech at the Ally Tipoff in Charlotte on ESPN2. On Sunday, she’ll travel to the West Coast for No. 9 Indiana at No. 15 Stanford on ESPN.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: Is this the most highly anticipated season for women’s college basketball?

Debbie Antonelli: “We are in a momentum in time in our game that we haven’t experienced before. It’s incumbent upon all of us as stakeholders—leaders in the game, broadcasters, officials, everyone—to make sure we don’t miss the moment to continue to move the game forward. We’re at a very critical time.”

What excites you about Iowa vs. Virginia Tech on Thursday?

“This is a must-see TV game. Everybody in basketball knows Caitlin Clark. To see what she was able to do last year, there’s really no one to compare her to. She’s going to become the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer. She’s going to break all the Big Ten records. She does it inside the team model, and she does it with substance and flair. She’s exciting to watch.

“The other team, Virginia Tech, did go to the Final Four last year. Elizabeth Kitley is a legitimate 6-6, and around the rim, she has the best footwork in the game. Georgia Amoore is the best point guard in the ACC. She proved that multiple times in March. For someone like me who loves offense, I think we’re going to get a lot of offense in this game.”

Who are the four best teams right now?

“I watched LSU the other night, and they are everything I thought they were going to be. I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to get a rebound against them. They’re deep, athletic, and confident. UConn is not someone you want to side on your side of the bracket in March with Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd. That will be the best shot-making backcourt in the country. I like Iowa. I think we’re in an interesting situation. In 1993, Sheryl Swoopes had a good team but not a lot of elite talent around her and she was able to take (Texas Tech) to a national championship. I think Caitlin Clark is in a similar situation. And South Carolina is always going to play through the post and play great defense. They have a lot better shot-making guards this year.”

What makes Angel Reese so good?

“Oh, my goodness. Her determination on the glass is probably her greatest asset. She’s going to get every rebound. The part of her game that is evolving and is going to make her more dangerous is when she gets it off the glass, she does not need the outlet pass. She can initiate offense and get them into their transition game. I think she has the chance to lead the team in assists.”

Who’s going to be the biggest impact transfer?

“I think Celeste Taylor at Ohio State. She transferred from Duke and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. She’s got size at 5-11. She can score and plays tremendous defense, which fits in perfectly with their style. Ohio State hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1993. This is a team that given the right seeding in the tournament is going to have a legitimate chance.”

Who’s going to be the best freshman?

“I’m keeping my eye on JuJu Watkins at Southern Cal because she was the No.1 ranked player coming out of high school. But I also think Mikaylah Williams at LSU has a chance to be the best freshman in the country.”

Is there a sleeper team that could make a run to the Final Four?

“People don’t talk about Tennessee in the national spotlight as much as we used to. I think this year that narrative can change. They check all the boxes, and have one of the best scorers in the country in Rickea Jackson. If she has a big year and their post-play is solid and they don’t turn the ball over, I think they have a chance in the tournament. The other team is North Carolina. They have a lot of depth. Alyssa Ustby might be the fastest end-to-end player.”

You’re an analyst for women’s and men’s games and the mother of three boys. How much traveling do you do?

“I have four women’s games the first week and six men’s games the second week. Last year from Christmas to the end of the Final Four, I was home 14 nights. I combine my basketball schedule with going to see my son (Frankie) at Clemson if I’m already on the road and going to watch my youngest (Patrick) who is a Division II point guard at Emory & Henry. Last year was our first year as empty nesters, so my husband is home by himself.”

Your son Frankie has Down syndrome. Can you tell us a little bit about him?

“He graduated from the ClemsonLIFE program. It’s very cool. LIFE is an acronym: Learning Is For Everyone. Clemson provides a post-secondary educational experience for students with intellectual disabilities. It is a leader in this space for families like us who want their child to have a college experience, learn some independent living skills, and be prepared to get a meaningful job. He graduated and lives at Clemson. He lives independently with support. He has two jobs. He does really well. I’m very proud of him.”

What happened that led you to be rescued by the National Guard?

“I was on my way to a game. I was trying to get to Wake Forest. I was stranded on a snowy highway for 12 hours. A blizzard had come through North Carolina and shut down one of the major interstates. There was congestion and unclearable traffic with three 18-wheelers that had jackknifed on the ice. Finally, the National Guard took us to the other side of the highway through the median.

“After that whole experience, going opposite of where I was supposed to go, I decided I was done for the night. I checked into a motel at a truck stop. I grabbed a six-pack of beer, sat in my room, and said a zillion prayers.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.