The NCAA Hoops Tourney That ‘Nobody’ Will Be Watching
With the country coming to a virtual standstill due to the men's NCAA College basketball tournament, the Madness of March, there's another tournament that draws far less television viewers, yet uses the same format.
In fact, there's even people in our office here at Townsquare Media that didn't realize the women had their own Madness of March. Now, before we get overwhelmed with emails and calls saying we're bashing women's sports, we're NOT.
We are simply pointing out the facts that compared to the men's NCAA Tournament, the women's doesn't get watched much. ESPN has pushed it strongly, digging up a lot of sponsorship and support. But by comparison, it's dwarfed by the men's.
Based upon 2015 numbers, the Sweet Sixteen games in the women's tournament drew an estimated 1 million viewers, the Elite Eight games 5.2. Not bad, until you consider the men's Elite Eight games drew a total TV audience of 54 MILLION.
At a time when women's college basketball is facing crossroads and challenges as to how it can draw more viewers and increase it's footing with the average sports fan, there's one team that in NASCAR terminology, is "stinking up the show." In racing, when one driver laps nearly the entire field en route to victory, analysts, drivers and fans refer to it as "stinking up the show," or removing any drama and excitement.
Now, it's not the fault of the University of Connecticut Huskies, or UConn as they are known. The coach and players only try to be the best, and let the chips fall where they may. But even sports experts are questioning whether their dominance is good for the sport. In reality, they've only won four of the last six NCAA women's titles. But they broke the all-time NCAA consecutive games winning streak by either a men's or women's team, and started another one that is close to breaking the old record again.
According to an article at philly.com (Phildelphia Daily News) the Huskies are 101-5 dating back to the start of the 2012 season. They won Final Four games in 2015 by as much as 51 points. This season, they led #2 South Carolina by one point at the half, then won by 30-plus. They are considered perhaps THE most dominant sports program in America over the last decade, based upon record and championships. We could go on and on with stats, but you get the point.
But it points out the lack of competition in the game. Unlike the men's game, women's basketball has always been largely dominated by a handful of teams. Years ago it was Tennessee, now it's UConn. Notre Dame, Baylor and now South Carolina have challenged, but in the men's game you don't see #1 beating another top ten team by 50 points. This year, they're trying to become the first women's team to win four straight titles, if they do it will be their 11th overall.
ESPN showed graphics last week showing the odds-on favorites to win the women's title, and UConn was a 70% favorite. NO other women's team was over 9%. Nobody likes watching a sport where the championship is inevitable.
The U.S National women's soccer team draws big stadium crowds, TV etc. Volleyball holds it's own, whether college or especially beach, including the Olympics. But basketball has been different.
Even in the NFL, nobody likes seeing the Patriots or Steelers win 2-3 titles in a row, we like certain teams to win, but like exciting challenging games. We like upsets, competition and for Cinderella's like Gonzaga used to be, to win now and then. That's why virtually nobody will be watching the women's NCAA tournament.
Until the NCAA and schools can figure out ways to invigorate the game, and increase the level of competition, the "stinking up the show" will continue with UConn. It would be interesting to see how successful they would be if the competition were HALF as tough as the men's game.
Not being rough on women's sports, it's just the cold hard truth.