Now, something that crossed the ESPN feed on Tuesday Afternoon was an op-ed piece by ESPN writer Mechelle Voepel. She debated whether another undefeated team in women's college basketball was a good thing or a bad thing. Keep in mind, the championship game was between UCONN and Notre Dame. Both teams were undefeated heading into the game so no matter who won, we would have another undefeated champion.
Voepel decided that another undefeated team in women's college basketball would be a good thing, as it gives teams a team to catch up to. It sets a benchmark for excellence and teams need to approach that benchmark in order to make women's college basketball a better sport than it is now.
Let me take the other side of this debate.
I think that undefeated teams in women's college basketball is very bad for the sport. Before anybody says something like "it has happened in the men's game, why is it different in the women's?" Here's why it is different.
The same teams repeat in Women's College Basketball.
This is why the viewership of the women's game is bad. Because the same 3-5 teams win the title every year. Take a look at this years Final Four in women's college basketball. You had
UCONN, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Maryland have combined for 20 Final Four appearances in the last 10 years. Throw in Tennessee and Baylor and now you have 27 appearances. In the last ten years, there have been 16 different teams in the Final Four.
Although That sounds like a lot, let's compare that to the last ten Men's NCAA tournaments
The Final Four this year contained:
These teams have combined for 11 Final Fours in the last ten years. Throw UCLA and North Carolina (who have probably made the Final Four the most in the last ten years), and you still only have 17 Final Four appearances, 10 less than the Women's game. In the last ten years, there have been 25 different teams in the Final Four.
Let's delve even deeper than that,
Since 2004, there have been only 9 teams in Women's College Basketball that have made the Final Four while being lower than a 2-seed.
The Men's side?
The number is 19 teams that have made the Final Four while being lower than a 2-seed.
Herein lies the problem.
Sure, there are goliaths in both Men's and Women's College Hoops, but the goliaths in Men's College Hoops can be defeated. There is always an uncertainty surrounding the tournament. We have seen 4 different teams rated an 8-seed or below make the Final Four in the last 4 years.
However, we always know what to expect in Women's College Hoops. Outside of 2011, when Texas A&M won the title, it's the same teams year in and year out that win the championships and make the Final Fours. There's too big of a gap between David and Goliath that even if David hit Goliath at his weakest point, Goliath wouldn't even flinch.
Take this year's tournament as an example. Everybody knew that UCONN was going to play Notre Dame for the National Championship game as soon as the bracket came out. That should NEVER happen in something as magical as march madness. However, it did and it came to fruition.
I haven't even scratched the surface on this problem. Let's not forget that UCONN has gone undefeated 5, yes 5 times in the last 20 years! That's a huge problem! The NFL has 1 perfect team, and they play on average about 20 games less. Men's College Basketball has had 7 undefeated teams, including four from the Wooden days at UCLA. It hasn't been done in Men's college hoops since Indiana in 1976.
However, it has been done twice in the last 3 years! In an era where we are supposed to have the best athletes ever, we are still talking about how almost ridiculously easy it is for these teams to achieve the perfect season. It's almost not even an accomplishment anymore in Women's College Hoops. It is almost as if you could predict a team that will go undefeated and the fact that this can even be thought of as a norm in any sport is very, very awful.
Unfortunately, I don't have a solution to this problem because it is a multi-faceted problem. It goes farther than the coaches. It goes to the recruiting, to the players who always go to the biggest schools. No other teams have a chance because as soon as a UCONN or a Tennessee tries to recruit a player you are trying to recruit, you're not gonna have a shot at getting that recruit.
As soon as different teams start to win and make Final Fours and win championships, then I can guarantee viewership of Women's College Basketball will go up. Look at NASCAR. Everyone was sick of seeing Jimmie Johnson win. As soon as Brad Keselowski won the Sprint Cup Title in 2012, people wanted to watch the sport more. It was because there was a new face of NASCAR. Although Jimmie Johnson would end up winning the cup the very next year, there was still the feeling of "Jimmie can still lose, he's not invincible anymore"
Unfortunately, that time has not come yet for Women's College Hoops.
So, Voepel can say that undefeated teams are good for the sport. She can say it creates a benchmark.
The only thing undefeated teams create?