For those still clinging by their fingertips to the argument that their lack of interest in Women’s College Basketball is due to a lack of competitive balance, just let go and fall into the sea of bad takes. You folks can join the crowds who believe that men’s college basketball is more fundamentally sound than the NBA and that stationary quarterbacks are more effective than mobile ones. Unfortunately for Tara VanDerveer and her Stanford Cardinal, they were, again. the program to take a major upset on the chin that highlighted the strength of competition in Women’s College Basketball.
Going into the 2023 tournament, Stanford was a No. 1 seed for the third consecutive season. The program won a National Championship in 2021 and was in the Final Four last season. However, on Sunday night Stanford’s 2023 run came to a startlingly abrupt end. VanDerveer’s team was knocked out of the tournament in the second round by No. 8 seed Ole Miss, 54-49.
Stanford has been here before
This loss makes Stanford the only No. 1 seed to not advance to at least the Sweet 16 since 2009. Also, while Virginia’s Men’s Basketball Team shocked America by being a No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in 2017, the Stanford Women’s Basketball Team was actually the first Division I basketball team to suffer that defeat. In 1998 Stanford — reeling from injury — lost in the first-round loss to 16th-seed Harvard.
When Geno Auriemma and Pat Summit were coaching dominant programs to multiple NCAA Championships, there were people who would argue that the level of dominance was not good for the sport. Connecticut winning 90 consecutive games throughout the course of three seasons was “boring,” even though the UCLA men winning 88 in a row in the early 1970s was “legendary.” It’s the lazy argument that frequent wrong-side-of-history dweller Darren Rovell made last March.
Buick aired a commercial highlighting the lack of coverage that women’s college sports receive in comparison to men’s. Rovell decided to quickly publish his opinion about it. He posted the commercial in its entirety and added his thoughts on why he believes that the Women’s Division I Tournament does not receive the same media coverage as the men’s.
Rovell tweeted this out just prior to the start of the 2022 NCAA Basketball Tournaments. In 2021, three double-digit seeds in the women’s tourney won their first-round matchups. During the first round in the women’s tourney following Rovell’s tweet, Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes were a two-seed just like they are this season. Unfortunately for Iowa, she didn’t score or assist on 27 consecutive points last season as she did on Sunday. In 2022, the Hawkeyes lost against Creighton in the second round. This season they are headed to the Sweet 16.
The fact that a highly recruited player like Clark elected to stay near home and play at Iowa instead of UConn, South Carolina, Notre Dame, or Stanford, is evidence that women’s college basketball these days is far from a race that only features a few standout competitors.
March is a wild time in college basketball. In a one-game sample, a higher seed getting upset by a lower seed is almost always a realistic possibility. For those who believed that Cinderella ignored the women’s game, here is a reminder from Stanford that not only has she always been around, but she is making her presence felt more frequently these days.
So for those who don’t care to watch Women’s College Basketball, you all have been warned that the “lack of competition,” argument is asinine. For those who don’t like today’s game and also didn’t appreciate the UConn and Tennessee dominance of the past, the problem is in the mirror. Not on the TV.