By Kristie Kahl
As women’s basketball teams continue to battle on the courts in the NCAA tournament, they have to battle for dedicated fans and coverage, too.
Although both the men and women participate in a tournament, most of the focus goes toward the men. All of the teams go out with the same goal in mind, the same intensity, and the same passion for the game. Yet only certain teams get the praise, recognition and coverage: the men’s teams.
The women’s tournament is still hosting undefeated UConn. Most would see this as a big story. But the bulk of the UConn stories are displayed “below the fold,” while games from the men’s tournament make leading headlines.
Rider recently paired up with the MAAC to co-host the Sweet Sixteen for the women’s basketball tournament at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton. Despite the fact that Rider did an amazing job with the tournament, it did not get the recognition it deserved. UConn took part in the weekend festivities as it swept past California and Arizona State.
Since the team has gone 37-0 this year, you would think the Sovereign Bank Arena would be a packed house. Well, think again. As the stadium contained more empty seats than fans with only 4,700 of 10,000 seats filled, UConn moved on to the semi-finals of the tournament.
The team competed in the Elite Eight against Arizona State (26-9) on Tuesday night at the Trenton arena. UConn posted 83 points over Arizona’s 64 as it claimed a 58.9 field goal percentage. Sophomore Maya Moore was the leading scorer as she earned 25 points for the Huskies with nine rebounds in 40 minutes of play.
A few days earlier, UConn’s men’s team claimed an 82-75 victory over Missouri State (31-7). UConn (31-4) posted a 50.9 field goal percentage while making 26 of its 32 free throws. The team’s leading scorer was freshman Kemba Walker, who netted 23 points.
The statistics from both teams sound quite similar. Both teams won as leading scorers claimed over 20 points. In fact, the women’s numbers are slightly higher than the men’s. So why has the men’s team been getting majority of the coverage?
The women’s tournament seems to be playing second fiddle to the glory of the men’s competition as four more teams from each tournament strive for the finale of March Madness.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the second round of the women’s tournament only drew about an average of 4,100 fans while the men made it look easy as they quadrupled their fan base each game.
If you just Google-search NCAA basketball tournament, the first page consists of 10 top stories. But only one of those 10 articles included the women’s tournament, and it was about UConn.
So why is it that the women’s tournament lacks the equal attention from that of the men’s?
Society, in general, is geared more toward men’s athletics. Take for example the Women’s National Basketball Association. This league does not even come close to getting the attention the National Basketball Association gets. These women are talented athletes, but again, the fan base lies with the men’s league.
When you think of professional sports, strictly men’s athletic teams come to mind — baseball, football, basketball, hockey, etc. Stadiums sell out for professional sports all of the time, women just don’t partake in those pro teams.
Do people just assume that the men’s teams will do everything better than the women’s? The men’s Final Four consists of Michigan State, Villanova, UConn and North Carolina while the women’s tournament is hosting UConn, Stanford, Oklahoma and Louisville. All eight of these universities are prestigious as each team works to be the the ultimate champion. You don’t see Lousiville sending its men’s team to the Final Four, nor Oklahoma or Stanford. Both Final Four tournaments consist of different teams, games and winners every night. Unfortunately, people tend to overlook the women’s side.
Avid basketball lovers don’t bother to compare the men’s tournament to the women’s for its good qualities. People should be able to appreciate both tournaments for their similarities as well as their differences. They are two separate entities, so why not be a fan of both? If fans actually sat down to watch both events, they could appreciate the value of both tournaments.