Sorry for the drought of postings, I’ve been tied up watching the NCAA finals for basketball. Per usual I’m in a pool for both the men’s and women’s brackets, and though I had no shot at winning the men, I could’ve won the women (and the combined score pool) if my alma mater, Notre Dame, had triumphed over Texas A&M. Spoiler alert: they did not.
It was a great game, including a come-from-behind run at the bottom of the first half where the Irish clawed their way back from double digit deficit to ending with the lead. Back-and-forths through the second half saw the Aggies end up on top when it counted.
I bring this up because both the Notre Dame men’s and women’s teams were two-seeds in their respective tournaments, yet while the women made it to the championship game, the men were embarrassingly upset in the second round. I’m not a fan of Mike Brey (men’s coach) but a big fan of Muffet McGraw (women’s coach), so this wasn’t surprising.
While those outcomes made me appreciate our women more, I was doubly surprised by the entertainment difference in the championship games. Butler/UConn was like watching a middle school pick up game on a slow day: shooting percentages were abysmal and defense was not exactly stifling. Both teams seemed off their game, and it was one of the more boring games of the tournament, lacking passion. Considering the buildup of this Cinderella taking on one of the hottest teams in basketball of the past decade (especially after the miracle run of VCU), the game was anticlimatic. As I mentioned, the women’s game was much more watchable with all the elements of sports drama including larger-than-life leaders on both sides and a spirited audience that had every reason to get into the game (unlike the men’s fans who were quite calm as UConn built an ever-wider lead the whole night). The talent was greater, the enthusiasm more evident.
While I’m sure the men’s game drew a larger audience, they missed the real action. I’m not saying WNBA season ticket sales will skyrocket, I used to regularly attend our lady Irish games and can attest they lack some of the emotional adrenaline of a well-matched men’s game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the gradual gain of women’s basketball starts to pick up and let the sport stand on its own soon. While most major women’s programs are add-ons to successful men’s programs, we should start to see some schools build an independent program soon. Small schools with successful programs could place them at the center of their athletics’ portfolio much as lacrosse dominates John Hopkins or hockey at Minnesota-Duluth. Students will flock to successful programs when the main sports aren’t present or compete on a lower level, so now’s the time for the sport to expand outside into the mid-majors.
Media type: Sporting event
Title: Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship