By DYLAN MALONE
I’ve been meaning to write about the NCAA tournament but with sports in full swing it was mostly just an afterthought to pictures, stories, and more pictures.
Now that I have a moment to think about it, the basketball season’s end at the collegiate level was very anti-climactic for me. Not the men’s tournament, mind you. The women’s.
How many people even watched one game of the women’s NCAA tournament?
My bold prediction is that next year there will be even less watching and you can thank UConn for that. The Huskies won the National Championship…again…and it was the worst thing that could have happened from a PR standpoint.
For the last decade, women have struggled to belong in the spotlight of sports. Female athletics have made huge strides for their cause overall but the challenge has always been getting people to watch on television.
In basketball especially, viewers have been spoiled by the high-flying heroics of the men’s sport. The slam dunks and athletic plays are what keep fans coming back to watch. Despite the raised level of play from women’s basketball, it still remains a fraction of the entertainment that their male counterparts provide and I think that’s just a shame.
In watching a number of men and women’s games I can say without a doubt that the women’s game is ten times rougher than the men’s. The officials let the players in the post bang away with little interruption and the funny thing is the women tend not to complain as much as the men do despite the battle down low getting quite physical.
I’ve seen ponytails get pulled down, jabs to the body, and even stepping on feet purposefully down in the post but for all of that there really is a lack of complaining from the women of the sport and I think that takes a certain amount of mental toughness that gets lost to the average viewer.
Anyone who has watched a men’s basketball game in the last month will probably note that not one player on the court has ever committed a foul according to the players. The player getting fouled, however, feels as though he has been wronged every time he dribbles the basketball. It gets a little obnoxious how much scrutiny the officials get in the men’s game. If they called a foul based upon what a foul is supposed to be there would be free throws on every possession.
Connecticut winning another title points to one of the biggest problems with the women’s game. Because of the lack of talent placement in the women’s collegiate level, a handful of teams are always at the top of the food chain, the Huskies being the main stage team in the last 10-15 years.
This was supposed to be a down year for the Huskies. Notre Dame, led by Skylar Diggins, was the team to beat in the tournament as they topped UConn three times including the Big East title game, the Irish’s first conference title. The fourth time was a charm, however, and UConn knocked out the Irish in the Final Four before handing Louisville a beating in the title game.
The Cardinals had already topped two number one seeds en route to an entertaining Cinderella story but that all fizzled when they could not deliver a third upset bid and UConn quietly won another title, hence the lack of interest for most people.
When filling out a bracket for the men’s tournament, picking the upsets is what makes it so impossible to guess but on the women’s side, there really aren’t that many upsets because programs that aren’t elite simply do not have the talented recruits to compete.
The only hope for women’s basketball was Brittany Griner but she just graduated from Baylor and was picked number one by the WNBA team from Phoenix. Griner was the greatest thing to happen to the sport since Candace Parker or even back to when Lisa Leslie paved the way for the newly formed WNBA.
What is it about those women that stood out? They could dunk!
Truly, from a basketball standpoint, aggressive and physically dominating women change the game for their teams and I think that Phoenix will instantly become a contender with Griner on their roster.
So what the college game loses, the WNBA gains in Griner and even with Diggins getting picked third in the WNBA draft there could be a good cause to turn on some basketball during the summer months when the women play their season.
In the future, if the women’s college game can gain some momentum by spreading the wealth of players a little, perhaps more will take notice and the tournament may have some added interest and vigor.