|It's hard to find March Madness in the Women's Tournament.|
NCAA Tournament, day one. It should be Christmas Day, right? Can't say I'm feeling March Madness at the moment, just anger.
These aren't new gripes, they just resonate at the moment having watched Florida Gulf Coast upset Georgetown in the first round of the men's tournament. That's March Madness. Women's basketball, which has long claimed it wants to take the good parts of the men's game while restoring what it does well, is doing just the opposite.
It's utter nonsense to continue compromising the integrity of the field by making a higher seed play on a lower seed's home court. Notre Dame's reward for its Big East championship and one loss is to play in Iowa with a potential matchup against the Hawkeyes? North Carolina, a 3 seed, gets slotted for Newark, home to Delaware where the Blue Hens could await in the second round?
Then there's the matter of why Delaware is a 6 seed at all or Hampton a 15. Yes, it's a tired argument that the mid-majors get slighted, better word screwed, but LadySwish wonders why. Is anyone arguing that the current format is "growing the game"? Toledo, 29-3, is playing in the second round of the WNIT instead of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Is there really a need to reward West Virginia and Kansas, teams with 13 losses apiece? The Jayhawks slide includes losing five of their final seven. So much for the NCAA committee evaluating a team's final 10.
In this era of what conference are you in this week?, isn't it time to drop the word mid-major from the discussion? It's a condescending label and one that prevents the so-called growth women's basketball contends it wants. The only route for a "mid-major" getting to the tournament with a respectable seed is to sweep its conference and stack up wins against the "majors." Now how hard can that be?
Consider this. When Wendy Larry was at ODU, she was lucky. "Majors" -- Tennessee, UConn, Texas Tech, North Carolina, Rutgers -- were regulars on the schedule, but what a novelty that was. "Hello, BCS school. This is Kenny Brooks calling. Can we get a home-and-home series? Hello? Hello......."
The entire tournament seems to be geared to the "predetermined" Final Four, the Notre Dame, UConn, Baylor and Stanford. Great teams. Awesome players. But other schools have great teams and awesome players, too, names that should be household ones but aren't. Yep, you probably know Elena Delle Donne, but Ally Malott, Niveen Rasheed and yeah, if you're reading this blog you probably know Keiara Avant, but how many others do?
Next weekend Norfolk hosts a regional. Teams hold press conferences and practices in the Constant Center, and guess what? These practices are closed. Why is this a big deal? Let's go back to 2008. Practices were open. My son, a budding fan of the game at the time, watched all of them and can recount the details of meeting Tar Heel Erlana Larkins. What a treat it was for fans to get up close to a team practicing in hopes of earning a trip to the Final Four, a concept the men's tournament embraces. Seems to me it's a good way to grow the game, and as most know, the real practice comes later at an undisclosed site.
There is opportunity for greatness in the NCAA women's tournament, and I retract my earlier statement that there is no madness. This current format is just that --sheer lunacy.