Tougher road: Men or women?
Making the Final Four for a second straight season is a monumental achievement for OU’s women’s basketball team. Yes, the Sooners got a cushy NCAA Tournament assignment, with two home games to start with, a regional without Connecticut and a trip to Kansas City, which its fans could drove to and create a decent homecourt advantage against Notre Dame and Kentucky.
But still. The Sooners won two virtual tossup games — they were slight underdogs against Notre Dame, slight favorites against Kentucky — against completely different but very worthy opponents.
The Sooners’ trek to San Antonio shows the difference between the men’s NCAA Tournament and the women’s NCAA Tournament. The men’s Final Four is harder to reach, because the men’s field is deeper.
Men’s mid-majors can step up and bite you. Women’s mid-majors rarely do. Three mid-majors reached the women’s Sweet 16. Only Xavier won. No mid-major has reached the women’s Final Four since (Southwest) Missouri State in 2001. Meanwhile, five men’s teams reached the Sweet 16 and Butler made the Final Four, the second mid-major to do so in the last five years.
So that means it’s much easier to reach the Sweet 16 in the women’s tournament. But often, it’s harder to get out of the second weekend in the women’s tournament.
Compare OU’s run to the Final Four with the Duke men’s. Duke beat a 16 seed (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), an 8-seed (California), a 4-seed (Purdue) and a 3-seed (Baylor). The Sooners beat a 14-seed (South Dakota State), an 11-seed (Arkansas-Little Rock), a 2-seed (Notre Dame) and a 4-seed (Kentucky), the first two at home. Pretty clear that the Sooners had the easier early road but the tougher later road.
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