It looked more like Alanna Smith was preparing for a concert she had been waiting a lifetime for instead of a game against Washington State on Jan. 20. The Stanford women’s basketball star was jamming to some of her favorite Australian rave music with such fervor in the locker room that she — and a few other teammates who joined in — were in a sweat before pregame warmups.
Did it take too much energy out of her?
"No, she had what, 34?” DiJonai Carrington asked rhetorically.
Music can assertively define the mood of a game and create an otherworldly atmosphere. But before the games even begin, teams have to set the tone themselves.
Three of the best teams in women’s college basketball shared a few songs they turn to when they’re looking for a little extra motivation in the locker room before they take the court. Most of the songs are some of the most popular hip-hop and rap music today, but their playlists even dip into the peculiar choice of German, country and — yes — even “Baby Shark.”
Connecticut, Oregon and Stanford were the only teams that spoke with NCAA.com for this story.
To no one’s surprise, the UConn Huskies are national championship contenders again this season. To what might come as a surprise to some, that pregame playlist that fires up one of the best teams in history includes the popular kid’s song “Baby Shark” that has hilariously made it into the Billboard Top 40.
"I know me, Phee (Napheesa Collier) and Lou (Katie Lou Samuelson), we'll get hype on some Baby Shark,” said starting point guard Crystal Dangerfield.
She also named “Can’t Leave Without It” by 21 Savage, “March Madness” by Future — “Who wouldn’t want that?” she said — ”Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes.
For Dangerfield, she’ll also include Drake and Cardi B into her heavy rotation.
“We listen to everything and it's not like we're upset if someone puts something on and we don't listen to it 'cause we'll still find a way to have fun with it,” Dangerfield said.
Carrington also mentioned 21 Savage, as well as the newly released “Middle Child” by J. Cole, Roddy Ricch, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and “Going Back” by Meek Mill and Drake.
All of that sounds pretty standard for pump-up songs before games, but there are some choices that really show the personality of these teams.
Carrington said the team has really embraced Smith’s music from her homeland and learning a line dance to Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake it For Me).”
As Carrington tells it, senior Shannon Coffey from Dayton, Ohio, taught the line dance to half of the team that listens to country music. It took just one day after practice for all of them to learn how to do it, then the rest of the team joined in when they saw how much fun their teammates were having.
“It's pretty simple but it looks super cool when we're all doing it together,” Carrington said.
Just up the West Coast, Oregon has a pair of sisters that are American but grew up in Germany. So Satou Sabally, the 2018 Pac-12 freshman of the year, contributes her German pump-up songs and one French song that are completely normal to her but foreign to just about everyone else.
"Music is always a funny topic in our locker room because I play different music sometimes and then everyone is like, 'Wait, what is that?' Sabally said. “Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don't.”
She said she mostly listened to American hip-hop and rap in Germany and likes “Pure Water” by Migos and “Splashin” by Rich the Kids like the rest of her teammates, but Sabally certainly adds a unique flavor to Oregon’s playlist unlike just about any team in the country.
Though the music varies significantly, without it, Sabally said it just feels quiet as if something is missing. The one underpinning for the best teams in women’s basketball is that sharing music creates an environment of unity.
“No one person is ever like ‘I need to be in control of what music we're playing.’ And on the court it's the same thing,” Carrington said. “We're gonna share the aux, we're gonna share the music and then we're gonna share the ball on the court."