Another March has come and gone, and with it the most exciting sporting event of the year: the NCAA Division I National Tournament. As March turns into April, and all but four teams are headed home, it’s the perfect time to reflect on some historic moments. Of course, the most notable is UConn winning their fourth title in a row in 2016, establishing themselves as one of the greatest programs in history with their 11th title in the last 36 years. Or, if you prefer an underdog story, you’ll love No. 13 Liberty defeating not only No. 4 Penn State in the first round, but also dispatching No. 5 DePaul before losing to LSU. There still has yet to be a lower seed to advance as far.
Now, if you’re an avid college basketball fan, I probably know what you’re thinking: “But didn’t Villanova win it all in 2016 with a buzzer beater three?” (Oh, yes they did, and you bet I cried.) Or maybe, “Liberty has never won a tournament game before, let alone two upsets!” And you’d be right, if I was harkening back to the best moments in men’s tournament history. However, this is not the case. Those highlights are both memories from women’s tournament history, a competition that starts and finishes at the same time as the men’s tournament, but receives vastly less coverage. In 2018, the men’s Final Four averaged over nine million viewers — which is actually much lower than previous years — while the women’s Final Four was barely above 7.5 million.
One could turn the argument against me and say that because programs in women’s basketball such as UConn are so dominant, it’s more exciting to watch a close game in the men’s tournament than a blowout in the women’s. However, that goes out the window when taking into account that in last year’s women’s Final Four, two of the games were decided at the buzzer by the same player, and one of those games won was the final.
Not only was it Notre Dame’s first championship in nearly 20 years, but it was a comeback of epic proportions. Down almost 15 at halftime after scoring a record-low three points in the second quarter, the Fighting Irish capped off the largest comeback in women’s title game history with Arike Ogunbowale’s championship-clinching three, her second game-winner in three days. If that isn’t exciting, I don’t know what is.
There’s absolutely no reason women’s basketball, both collegiate and professional, shouldn’t receive the same amount of press and viewership men’s does. Regardless of gender, these are the world’s best players competing at the highest level every night, and they deserve equal respect and reverence. One day, I hope to see just as many Candace Parker jerseys as I do Lebron James jerseys on the streets of Los Angeles. Mutual respect isn’t an issue for NBA players, it shouldn’t be that hard for everyone else. In the words of golfer Thomas Bjorn, “game respects game.”