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Here's what the NCAA men's basketball tournament gave us this weekend:

  • Five of the eight Sweet 16 games decided by six points or fewer, with three of the eight games coming down to a final possession.
  • All four Elite 8 games decided by 10 points or fewer, with one game - Wisconsin's 64-63 win over Arizona - going to overtime and another decided on a last-second shot.

And here's what the NCAA women's basketball tournament has given us:

  • Eight games in the Sweet 16 with only one of the eight decided by fewer than 11 points. On Saturday, none of the four games was closer than 17 points. On Sunday, two of the games were decided by 25 points or more.

And here's what else the women's tournament had that the men's tournament didn't - home games.

There were four Sweet 16 sites this weekend for the women's tournament, and three involved teams playing on their home floor. Not surprisingly, the home team won all three by an average margin of 22.6 points.

The only region that doesn't have a home team playing is the Lincoln Regional, where No. 4 seed Nebraska was upset by No. 12 seed BYU in the second round on a neutral court.

What a concept, right?

The women's tournament has gone to home regional sites due to a lack of attendance in recent years. And it has worked.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the four regional sites have averaged 9,000 fans so far, up more than 2,000 from last season.

Great. There are a few more fans showing up to the games. But at what cost?

Just the integrity of the tournament, that's all.

The NCAA is almost giving teams a free ride into the women's Final Four. And for what? So that games look a little better on television?

Let me give you just one example of how unfair this current process is.

The Oklahoma State Cowgirls earned a No. 5 seed for the tournament, and after beating No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast 61-60 in the first round, had to play No. 4 Purdue on its home floor. OSU found a way to beat the Boilermakers 73-66, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 16 years.

And their reward? Having to play top seed Notre Dame on Notre Dame's home floor.

The result was as expected, with the Fighting Irish dominating the game from start to finish for an 89-72 win. Both No. 3 seed Penn State and No. 7 seed LSU lost Sunday by 25 and 26 points, respectively, to teams playing on their home courts.

Would the results have been different on a neutral court? Of course there's no way to be 100 percent sure, but wouldn't it have been nice to find out?

It was even worse in the first round. Of the 16 first-round sites, 13 were home courts, and nine of those teams advanced to the Sweet 16.

The NCAA has tried playing tournaments on neutral floors in more off-campus arenas in recent years. The results have produced smaller crowds.

But should teams and players have to suffer because of that? Should we penalize teams and take away their chance to live a dream so there's a few more fans in the seats?

Absolutely not.

So what's the answer? How about putting tournament sites in cities that truly support women's basketball, even if there's no local team playing?

Or how about simply putting the athletes and teams above what might look better on television? How about having the guts to stand up to the naysayers and do what's right?

Do you think Oklahoma State, Penn State and LSU would have rather played before a couple thousand fewer fans while playing on a neutral floor this weekend?

I guess for the NCAA, a few more people in the seats is worth selling your integrity for.

Scott Nulph is sports editor of WyoSports. Call him at 755-3324 or email him at snulph@wyosports.net For more on Wyoming as well as the rest of the sports world in the Cowboy State, go to www.wyosports.net and www.wyomingsportsblog.com, and follow him on Twitter: @ScottNulph.

 

April 1, 2014

 

 
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