Huskies dominance illustrates lack of parity in women's basketball
On Tuesday April 8th, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team defeated the University of Notre Dame women's basketball team 79-58 to win its record 9th NCAA championship and in the process compete its 5th undefeated season, the others occurring in 1995, 2002, 2009 and 2010. The Huskies have dominated women's college basketball, winning four of the last six titles and nine of the last twenty. By comparison, no men's team has won more than four during that same time frame, although, ironically enough, the University of Connecticut holds that mark as well. Now, by no means am I attempting to downplay what the Huskies have accomplished. Nine national titles and five undefeated seasons is a major accomplishment no matter what sport you are playing. However, it does illustrate the difference in competition between men's and women's teams in college basketball. Although both games are pretty similar-both play for 40 minutes, both send roughly the same number of teams to their annual NCAA Tournament-there is one major difference between the two, and that is how their respective professional leagues operate. The National Basketball Association, or NBA, allows players to enter their annual player draft if they turn 19 the year of the draft. Generally, this means a player only has to stay in college for one year before entering the draft. Since this rule was first instituted in 2006, 227 underclassmen have been selected in the NBA draft. The Women's National Basketball Association, or WNBA, however, does not permit players to enter their draft until they are at least four years out of high school. This results in women's teams retaining a majority of their players every year, which in turn, has resulted in the same teams dominating the field every year. In fact, you have go all the way back to 2006 to find an NCAA Division I Women's Final Four that did not include either Connecticut or Tennessee, the two most dominant programs in women's basketball history, with more than half (17 out of 33) of the championships in NCAA Division I women's basketball history. By comparison, the men's teams with the most titles during that same period-Connecticut, Duke and North Carolina-have combined for just 12 out of 33 titles (4 each). In women's basketball, Connecticut and Tennessee have also combined for six undefeated seasons-five for the Huskies and one for the Volunteers-while no men's basketball team has gone undefeated since Indiana in 1976 and only three-Indiana State in 1979, UNLV in 1991 and Wichita State in 2014-have even entered the tournament undefeated. In edition to the undefeated women's teams at Connecticut and Tennessee, two other women's basketball teams-Texas in 1986 and Baylor in 2012-have also completed undefeated seasons. Additionally, six other teams (Louisiana Tech in 1990; Vermont in 1992 and 1993;Connecticut in 1997;Liberty in 1998;and Notre Dame in 2014) also entered the tournament undefeated but lost. One team-Liberty-lost in the first round, ironically enough, to another undefeated team, Tennessee, who would go on to win the championship. Vermont would lost in the first round both years, to George Washington and Rutgers, respectively. Connecticut would lose in the regional finals to Tennessee. Louisiana Tech would lose in the national semifinals to Auburn and Notre Dame would lose in the national championship to another undefeated team, Connecticut. By comparison, on the men's side, Indiana State would lose in the national championship to Michigan State, UNLV would lose in the national semifinals to Duke and Wichita State would lose in the round of 32 to Kentucky. A quick glance at the rosters for this year's men's and women's basketball champions-in both cases, Connecticut- shows that the men's team will lose at least four seniors-Niels Gifey, Tyler Olander, Shabazz Napier and Tor Watts, while the women's team will lose at least two seniors-Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. As of this writing, no Connecticut men's basketball underclassmen have declared for the NBA Draft and in fact, only Napier is currently projected as a draft pick by www.draftexpress.com. The Connecticut women's basketball team is currently projected to have both of its seniors selected in the 2014 WNBA Draft, according to www.draftsite.com. One thing is for certain, though. If history is any indication, the women's team has a better chance of repeating than the men's team.