Stratton’s Stand: Why UConn vs. NC State was great for the sport of women’s basketball 

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“Women’s basketball sucks,” reads a tweet by Twitter user “Matt,” exercising the freedom of speech granted to him through the First Amendment of the Constitution. As dumb as Matt sounds saying this, you might (or might not) be surprised to know that he is not alone. Every day, people all around the internet and country insult the sport of women’s basketball, almost exclusively without evidence or good reason. After Monday night’s thrilling clash between UConn and NC State to send a team to the Final Four, even the biggest haters have been silenced. 

Grace Raynor of The Athletic did a great job describing how powerful the contest was, noting in her piece that “No. 1 NC State and No. 2 UConn played the best game of either the men’s or women’s tournament thus far.” Paige Bueckers, the star of the show who put up a 27-point clinic, said herself, “I would’ve loved to watch this game.” 

Women’s basketball rarely gets the chance to take center stage, seemingly always overshadowed by men’s basketball. Why has it historically been seen as an inferior sport ? The reason for this is because of the number of blowouts and lack of parity over the last few decades of the sport. In men’s basketball, one of the best things is getting to see the big upsets: the little guy making a run. A good example is No. 15 seed St. Peter’s Elite Eight feel-good run. Recently though, we’ve seen a switch flip in the sport.  

As a metric to measure parity, I’ve added up the seedings of all teams in the elite eight over the past five seasons including this one. The least parity would have a score of 12, where in every region, the No. 1 seed is playing the No. 2 seed to make it to the final four, such that each region’s seeds total three. The maximum parity score would be 124, or a No. 16 seed playing a No. 15 seed in every region.  

In 2017, parity was moderate, with a score of 21, although it was shouldered by No. 10 seed Oregon. In 2018, it was even worse, with a score of just 17, mostly thanks to No. 6 seed Oregon State. 2019 was the worst it could have been from a parity standpoint with a score of 12, meaning that the Elite Eight went completely chalk. 2021 saw the figure go to 20, with No. 6 seed Texas performing well. This year was as high as we’ve seen in the five-year span. With a score of 21, we saw a team like No. 10 seed Creighton advance to the eight in a Cinderella run.  

Parity is a massive factor in developing the sport of women’s basketball, but another huge factor is having a game like Monday night’s. Even if there are upsets along the way, the games between the two surviving teams in each region need to be compelling and draw viewers who wouldn’t be watching the game otherwise, as Monday’s matchup did. 

The game went back and forth, with neither team seemingly capable of missing a shot. The arena was absolutely rocking after every big play. The biggest thing though? It was a heavily trending topic on Twitter. People were talking about it, which led to more people to watch it and gain interest. If someone hears that there is a good game happening, they won’t want to miss it. And people didn’t. The game became the most viewed Elite Eight game since 2006, amounting 2,000,000 viewers. It was also the most viewed game of the women’s tournament.  

As more people tuned in, they got to see each magical shot, whether it was Paige’s 15 points across the overtimes or Jakia Brown-Turner’s incredible corner three to force double overtime. People noticed how good women’s basketball is and can be, meaning more people will be watching the Final Four. 

With that being said, here’s my message to Matt: please actually watch women’s basketball without any bias. It’s a great product that deserves praise. Anyone who watched UConn vs. NC State can understand this and it’s only getting better from here.  

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