OSU’s victory at Purdue on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament was monumental. Winning on the road in the NCAA women’s tournament, as the lower seed, is one of the best team achievements in collegiate sports.
The Cowgirls’ reward? Do it again. Only more difficult.
OSU plays at undefeated Notre Dame on Saturday in the regional semifinals. OSU just won an actual road game and now gets to play another.
Pardon my French, but this only shows what a joke is the NCAA women’s tournament. Women’s basketball is absolutely a sport that does not believe in itself.
Here we are, 10-15 years after women’s basketball knows it has to expand and get away from homecourts, we’re still monkeying around by giving teams an almost-insurmountable advantage in the sport’s marquee event.
Thirteen of the 16 first-round sites were hosted by teams in the tournament. Of those 13, nine advanced.
Two were big upsets – OSU over Purdue, and DePaul over Duke in Durham, N.C. Iowa State hosted but was expected to get rocked by Stanford. Instead, the Cyclones lost to Florida State in the first round. And Iowa hosted but was blown out in the second round by Louisville.
Among the victims was West Virginia, a No. 2 seed in the Louisville Regional. The Mountaineers had to play at LSU and lost 76-67.
Among the blessed was North Carolina, which won two tough games, including a 60-58 survival of Tennessee-Martin in Chapel Hill, N.C. And Penn State, which at home beat Wichita State 62-56. And Maryland, a four seed, which beat No. 5 seed Texas 69-64 in College Park, Md.
And it’s not going to get better this weekend. Four regionals, three home teams.
Louisville, a third seed, is hosting and could get to play at home against top-seeded Tennessee.
Stanford, a second seed, is hosting and could get to play at home against top-seeded South Carolina.
Notre Dame, a top seed and unbeaten, is hosting.
Only the regional in Lincoln, Neb., does not have a home squad.
It’s a total joke.
We know why tournament organizers resort to home floors. So the crowds will come.
But there’s one problem. It’s not working.
That OSU-Purdue game in West Lafayette? Drew 3,083.
Duke lost to DePaul in the round of 32. The Blue Devils, playing at home, drew 2,787.
That North Carolina-Michigan State game in Chapel Hill? Drew 2,010.
Penn State-Florida in State College, Pa.? Drew 3,500.
LSU-West Virginia in Baton Rouge? Drew 2,186.
The biggest attendance figure was Texas A&M-James Madison in College Station, Texas, which drew 7,095.
Tennessee drew 5,961 in Knoxville as the Vols beat St. John’s. Baylor drew 5,648 for its victory over California in Waco.
The rest of the crowds were just decent.
Kentucky beat Syracuse in front of 4,661 fans at Lexington, Ky.
Connecticut, with a supposed crazy fan base, beat St. Joseph’s. The Huskies drew 4,245 in Storrs, Conn.
That Maryland-Texas game? Drew 4,042 in College Park.
Iowa-Louisville in Iowa City? Drew 4,320.
The NCAA women’s tournament is compromising the legitimacy of the championship for a crowd of 4,000?
The women have tried off-campus venues, and they’ve been slow to build an audience. Tough. Show some patience. Show some perseverance. Show some belief in your sport.
Go to new markets. Go to smaller markets, if necessary. Go smaller gyms, if you need packed houses.
Anything to keep the competition legit. And playing on homecourts is not legit.