They pass, they shoot, they score exciting upsets; the NCAA women play basketball just like the men. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, however, they often “get no respect.” Millions watch the NCAA men play, but the numbers viewing the women’s sport are downright tiny in comparison. No wonder women who participate in NCAA basketball say, “Hey guys, we play, too!’
The women’s Final Four will be held in Nashville on April 8. The first round of women’s NCAA basketball kicked off this past Saturday. Between those dates, the action will be every bit as fierce as the men’s competition. The two favorites are Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut (UConn) thrashed Prairie View A&M 87-44 on Sunday Night. They will face stiff competition on their way to the semi-finals in Nashville on April 6 from teams like Nebraska and Kentucky. Both of those schools are ranked as two-seeds in their respective areas and both won their opening games handily.
Although the on-court action has been fierce thus far, NCAA women find that even their championship games suffer in viewership compared with the men’s finals. The women’s championship in 2011 drew under four million viewers on ESPN. In comparison, the men’s final two years later attracted nearly 21 million viewers. No wonder NCAA women athletes say, “Hey guys, we play too.”
Many of the top women players are as accomplished as their male counterparts. Breanna Stewart is one of the big reasons her UConn Huskies went undefeated this year and were picked, by President Barack Obama no less, to go all the way to the Final Four. Arguably the top player in the nation, she was named last year’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Notre Dame has two outstanding women players in sophomore Jewell Loyd and senior Kayla McBride. McBride is an All-American and Loyd is a rising star. Together, they form a one-two punch that just might take the Irish all the way. Loyd leads her team in scoring (18.5) and steals (1.6). She averages 6.2 rebounds a game along with 2.4 steals. Earlier this season she reached 1,000 points in 67 games, third fastest in team history.
Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford University is one of the nation’s leading scorers. She needs just a single point to become the Pac-12’s career leader and is looking for her third trip to the Final Four.
Baylor’s Odyssey Sims is no slouch either. She has helped her team rebound from the loss of All-American Brittney Griner, ranking second in scoring with an average of 28.4 points each game along with 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists.
Tiffany Mitchel is a major reason South Carolina is a number one seed. She leads the team in scoring and assists. She has been responsible for one-third of her teams offense in 13 games this year. Good news for South Carolina fans: she is only a sophomore. Conference coaches have named her the SEC player of the year.
Talent such as these women display is certainly worth watching. When it comes to NCAA basketball, the women have every right to say, “Hey guys, we play, too.”
Commentary by B. David Warner