March Madness

GUEST BLOGGER: CHRISTINE BAKER | THE WOMEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT

GUEST BLOGGER: CHRISTINE BAKER | THE WOMEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT

Women’s Road to the Final Four- Home Court Advantage

It’s no secret that the Selection Committee for the Women’s NCAA tournament makes a concerted effort to place teams within their home region in hopes of increasing attendance. For example, UCONN is always in the East while Stanford is always in the West, and so on.

It’s also no surprise that on women’s side, attendance numbers are not as high as they are for the men’s NCAA tournament, especially in the earlier rounds. I understand the Selection Committee’s argument that fans will come out to see their home teams play in larger numbers, and there is validity in that point of view.

However, I do feel that in the long run, the Selection Committee does a distinct disservice to the tournament by placing teams with this kind of home court/home region advantage. First of all, any coach or player will tell you that the energy from an electric home crowd is an advantage. Part of what makes the men’s tournament so exciting is the possibility for upsets on a neutral court. Granted, there is more parity between the say 5th and 10th seeds on the men’s side, but owning the home court in the first round is an advantage, and whether the Committee wants to admit it or not, it does factor into the outcomes to a certain extent.

Second, part of what makes the NCAA tournament so exciting is watching two teams face one another who have never met before in the regular season. One of the biggest complaints I have with the current home region structure is that teams that have seen one another multiple times in the regular season may face off again in the tournament. Case in point, #1 seed in the Spokane Regional is Stanford. UCLA is the #3 seed in the same region. Makes sense geographically. But, Stanford has played UCLA three times this season already. Twice in the regular season (Stanford won both) and again in the PAC-10 Tournament Championship (Stanford won that too). So for Stanford to make it to the Final Four, guess what? They need to possibly go through UCLA one more time. To me, that doesn’t make for a really exciting tournament. Exciting to me is watching Princeton take on Kentucky. Or Marquette face off against UGA.

At some point, the Women’s Tournament Selection Committee needs to move teams around outside of their comfort zones. Sure the attendance might be lower at first, but people will come watch good, interesting games. My feeling is fans of women’s hoops are not that unlike fans of men’s hoops: they want to watch good games, no matter what teams are playing. Period.

— Christine Baker is the author of Why She Plays: The World of Women’s Basketball (www.whysheplays.com )

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