Why the Women's Basketball Tournament is Better

Why does seeding work so much better in the N.C.A.A. women's basketball tournament than it does in the men's bracket?  

Here is the men's Sweet 16:  

  •  No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Texas, No. 4 L.S.U., and No. 6 West Virginia in the Atlanta Region, where No. 3 Iowa lost in the first round.  
  •  No. 1 Memphis, No. 2 U.C.L.A., No. 3 Gonzaga, and No. 13 Bradley in the Oakland Region, where No. 4 Kansas lost in the first round.  
  •  No. 1 Connecticut, No. 5 Washington, No. 7 Wichita State, and No. 11 George Mason in the Washington, D.C., Region.  
  •  No. 1 Villanova, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Boston College, and No. 7 Georgetown in the Minneapolis Region.  

If John Hughes was able to figure out how to prevent the Sweet 16 from being a total fiasco, why wasn't the selection committee able to do the same thing?  

Now compare that to the women's Sweet 16:  

  •  No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Tennessee, No. 3 Rutgers, and No. 4 Purdue in the Cleveland Region.  
  •  No. 2 Maryland, No. 3 Baylor, No. 5 Utah, and No. 8 Boston College in the Albuquerque Region, where No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Arizona State each lost in the second round.  
  •  No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 3 Georgia, and No. 4 Michigan State in the Bridgeport Region.  
  •  No. 1 L.S.U., No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Stanford, and No. 4 DePaul in the San Antonio Region.  

All right, so it wasn't really a dunk.  At least all four top seeds in her region advanced.  

Of the 16 teams in each tournament seeded first through fourth, six have been eliminated in the men's bracket and two have been ousted on the distaff side.  

A third-seeded team and a fourth-seeded team have bitten the dust in the opening round of the male tourney, whereas no squads seeded higher than fifth have fallen in a first-round contest among the ladies.  

Sweet 16 teams with Y chromosomes include a five seed, a six seed, two seven seeds, an 11 seed, and a 13 seed.  Sweet 16 teams with X chromosomes only include a five seed and an eight seed.  

No region of the men's tournament includes all four top seeds.  Three of the four regions in the women's tournament do.  

Captain Picard breaks the sad news that Number One has been seeded as a No. 2.  

I understand that many perfectly reasonable sports fans think "[u]psets are good for sport," believe "the women's tournament is not as competitive and exciting as the men's" because of "the utter lack of parity in the women's game," or simply consider women's basketball "one of the worst spectator sports to watch."  

L.D. and I have covered this ground repeatedly, so we need not rehash in its entirety the issue of playoffs and their legitimacy, vel non.  

Number Two reacts to the announcement that the selection committee has made him a No. 1.  

It suffices to say that those (like L.D.) who prefer tournaments believe Michael Jordan's Bulls were the best team in basketball because they won the N.B.A. Finals, whereas those (like me) who oppose tournaments believe Michael Jordan's Bulls won the N.B.A. Finals because they were the best team in basketball.  

For those of us who take the latter approach, the results of tournaments always are either superfluous, confirming what was already known to be true at the end of the regular season, or counterintuitive, as when a team wins the national championship despite not having finished first in its conference.  

This, then, is why I prefer the N.C.A.A. women's basketball tournament to the men's field of 64.  When the excitement of a sporting event is generated by the frequency with which better teams are defeated by weaker competition---as is demonstrably the case with the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament---that sporting event may constitute excellent dramatic entertainment but it has no claim whatsoever to legitimacy as a mechanism for crowning a champion.  

Bruce Pearl's Tennessee squad wasn't a two seed in his bracket . . .  

If being the best is not synonymous with winning, how can the ultimate winner claim to be the best?  If winning makes you the best, what possible purpose could be served by the haphazard, ham-handed, arbitrary, and awful seeding of the men's tournament?  

The women's tournament at least carries a patina of legitimacy.  The infrequency of upsets in the distaff side of the bracket confirms the correctness of the results of the regular season and of the assessments of those who selected and seeded the tourney field.  

Nothing even vaguely approaching such a positive evaluation may be offered in support of the men's basketball tournament.  Admittedly, all four No. 1 seeds survive, so it is entirely possible that the best team in the country could still win the national championship.  

. . . but the Lady Vols were a two seed in hers.  

That result, though, is by no means guaranteed.  Maybe the problem is seeding or maybe the problem is the R.P.I. component of the selection process, but, in any event, the men's tournament truly produces March madness . . . unlike the women's tourney, which provides a sensible spring and yields an outcome that ought not to be considered less exciting merely because it offers logical consistency.  

By the way, given the myriad of "Star Trek" references contained in a posting about women's basketball, I want credit for resisting the temptation to make a Kathryn Janeway/Pat Summitt "separated at birth" joke.  

Go 'Dawgs!  

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