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HomeBasketballNCAA BasketballLeave the women's college hoops game alone

Leave the women’s college hoops game alone

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An interesting thing happened over the last few weeks of the women’s college basketball season.

The conversation shifted to moving first- and second-round games to neutral sites. Talking heads wondered if the Final Four could sell out a dome similar to the men’s games. Fans picked sides for various reasons. Viewers of the UCONN/Iowa Final Four game argued a foul call for almost two whole days.

The women’s game deserves the attention it has garnered the last couple of years. Ratings have soared to record-high levels. Players and coaches are becoming household names. Interest seems to be at an all-time high.

Is that really what the players, coaches and programs want, though?

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam is my all-time favorite book. It focuses on the late 1970’s Portland Trail Blazers, led by young center and future Hall of Famer Bill Walton. The crux of the story is that contracts, TV deals and endorsements largely had an adverse effect on the game outside of making everyone rich.

The talent level in the women’s game gets greater every year. The stars stick around longer because there’s no million dollar deal waiting for them in the WNBA. Players hone their craft for four years before going pro, which has made the pro product that much better in recent years too.

News came out this weekend that the 2025 Women’s Tournament will be the first to see teams get “units,” or a payout for a particular conference for each game conference member’s play. That’s great news that will ultimately help out a lot of athletic departments.

The TV deals will come. Iowa and Caitlin Clark were featured multiple times this season in the FOX Saturday night game of the week. USC should get the same treatment with JuJu Watkins coming into the Big Ten next season.

The fan chatter is fun for the most part, but a lot of it comes down to those fans seeing themselves in the players and teams they root for. I’m not sure I’d want more of that if I were involved.

The gambling issues can’t be far behind, either. How long before someone threatens UCONN superstar Paige Bueckers because she went under 25 points in a Sweet Sixteen game?

The numbers won’t look like they did this season. Clark is a comet. She’s Davidson Steph Curry from the shooting to the court vision. But the growth will continue. Stars like freshmen Hannah Hildalgo, MiLaysia Fulwiley, Watkins and Bueckers will be a big part of that.

At what cost, though?

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