It was around this time last year when the women‘s NCAA basketball tournament was the talk of the town. However, that wasn’t because of the games happening on the court.
Last year, the NCAA was accused of gender inequality when the men’s March Madness facilities were compared to those of the women’s tournament (which couldn’t even use the March Madness branding).
The Men’s teams had full, state–of–the–art gyms at their disposal. Their spaces were full of treadmills, weight lifting machines, and much much more.
The women? Well, they had a couple of yoga mats and a set of dumbbells–intended to be used by the entire 64-team field.
The buck stops here
The stark contrast between the two set the internet ablaze, and the NCAA knew they had to make sweeping changes.
One of the first alterations to the women’s tournament was expanding the field to 68 teams–something Men’s Tournament has done with “The First Four” since 2011. This will also be the first year the women’s tournament is officially referred to as “March Madness.”
Additionally, the Women’s Tournament is receiving a significant increase in investments to prior years, but no exact amount has been disclosed.
“This year there will be numerous and notable enhancements to the championship,” Lynn Holzman, the NCAA vice president of women’s basketball said, per The Associated Press. “What those have translated to is an enhanced women’s basketball student-athlete experience and fan experience.”
In addition to financial changes, there will be some changes on and off the court as well. Officials in both tournaments will be paid equally for the first time in NCAA history.
Additionally, fan events at the women’s Final Four will be expanded to be more similar to the men’s events. This includes media days and open practices the day before the championship game.
There still is work to be done, such as TV rights and revenue disbursement. However, this steps reflect progress made in leveling the playing field.
How the Maryland Terrapins will fare
The Terps finished with an overall record of 21-8, and earned a No. 4 seed in the bracket. They’ll face No. 13 seed Delaware in the first round.
Their run for a Big Ten Tournament Championship came to a quick end, as they lost to Indiana in the first round. The Terps will look to rebound with a strong March Madness performance.
Led offensively by sophomore forward Angel Reese, this Maryland team is one of the most explosive offenses in the country. They rank 11th on the year in points per game. They pair that with one of the lowest turnover rates in the country.
One of the scariest things for this Maryland team, however, is their performance against ranked opponents on the season. They went 4-6 against ranked opponents on the year, losing by an average of 15.5 points in each game.
If you’re searching for a silver lining, they have gone 3–1 in their last four games against ranked opponents. Fans can hope they got all of their bad losses out of the way.
Realistically, I don’t see the Terrapins cutting down the nets this year. However, I feel they can still put in a strong performance and make it far in this year’s tournament. There are just too many juggernaut teams (like South Carolina, Stanford, and NC State) in this year’s field. It makes getting to the Final Four exceedingly difficult.
However, a push into the Sweet 16 (and a likely matchup with Stanford) would be a huge accomplishment for this Maryland squad.
The great part is that it’s entirely in the realm of possibility.