The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament starts Saturday, and I have a problem with that.
The women’s tournament is easily the third-best collegiate sporting event, surpassed only by football and men’s hoops. While pundits love to debate the viability of the WNBA (and those who wish it would go away try to ignore that attendance was up 18 percent last season), no one doubts the viability of women’s college hoops. A shot of women’s college hoops is one of the first clips in the montage in the introduction for ESPN’s Sportscenter for good reason. Several women’s college games have outdrawn most of the NBA telecasts.
So what’s the problem?
The tournament is too big and that saps some of the drama. The women’s field is 64 teams, which in the name of equality seems right since the men’s field is 65. But there’s a key difference. The men’s field has good reason to be that size. In this year’s men’s tournament, there are 10 teams with legitimate championship dreams, and there are about 15 more that harbor real chances of making the Final Four in Detroit. Most of the other 40 teams figure that they could make their mark by scoring a significant upset. There are only a few teams that might be described as filler.