Today: May 29, 2024

Sports Column: NCAA March Madness

Dillon Flanigan- Sports Editor

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, March Madness tournament is one of the most popular and exciting events in college basketball in the United States. 

A single-elimination tournament featuring 68 college basketball teams from Division I typically takes place over the last three weeks in March, or in this year’s case, stretches into April. 

March Madness is not only a major sporting event but also a cultural phenomenon. It draws millions of viewers all while generating significant attention and revenue for the colleges and universities involved. 

Although the tagline refers to the men’s tournament and not the women’s, there should be unanimous agreement that the phrase complements both the men and women’s brackets. 

Women’s sports, let alone women’s basketball, has been cast in the shadows of their male counterparts. 

Each tournament run, the men are aired on a CBS network, while the women are aired on an ESPN network. They are both broadcasted nationally, but the women are not presented like top tier sport. 

The men’s first two rounds are at a neutral venue, while the women’s top seeds play in their campus arena where a more local and biased crowd might be. 

This season, there are more stars at many more universities than in years past. It is not just one team that has been pre-determined in one’s mind to win, it is all an open field. 

If the NCAA was concerned about attendance being an issue playing at a neutral site, then they should reflect on this year’s first round tournament games. Locally, the University of Connecticut, UConn, hosted Jackson State University, while the winner would play the winner of the second game at Storrs, the University of Arizona and Syracuse University. 

Attendance is not an argument when the Wild Cats and Orange are playing at a nearly empty Gampel Pavilion on UConn’s campus. 

In fact, this past weekend was the final four and championships rounds. The men will be at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. A football stadium that holds over 63,000 will see more in attendance with field level seating. 

On the other hand, the women took the court at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. The Fieldhouse, built for holding basketball games, holds only 19,000. 

Yes, in big games, everyone wants the best matchup, even with a sold-out crowd. Four teams advanced for the women; ranked number one in the Albany 1 region South Carolina Gamecocks and the Iowa Hawkeyes, while the ranked number three in the Portland 3 region North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Huskies moved on. 

On Wednesday, April 3, the Associated Press released an article via ESPN regarding the ticket prices for the past weekend’s showdown. 

According to Logitix, a ticketing platform, the average price of a ticket sold for the women’s final four was north of $2,300. On the men’s side, the average was about $1,000. 

Within this past weekend, another ESPN report was released stating a new TV viewership record of an average of 12 million with a peak of 16.1 million viewers to the Hawkeyes and Louisianna State University Tigers rematch from last year’s championship. 

Recently, women’s college basketball has been garnering record-breaking viewership and fandom. With the women’s bracket receiving its due respect, a spotlight for female collegiate athletes is long overdue. 

Regarding the future of March Madness, it is in the best interest of future generations of female collegiate athletes for the NCAA women’s teams to be held in the same regard as their male counterparts. 

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