COMMENTARY | Women’s college basketball has improved dramatically in recent years. When I began following University of Kentucky (UK) women’s college basketball in the 1970s, the rules seemed much different for women than for men. For example, as I saw it, if men’s game rules had been used, the ladies could have been called for walks on the majority (most?) of their possessions. That was true for both Kentucky and its opponents.
I appreciated the outstanding efforts of the female players and enjoyed watching some of their games, but their play was not near the level of that of the men. Watching women’s college games was less exciting.
Now the women seem to play similar to the men. If you are a college basketball fan and haven’t seen a women’s college basketball game recently, I urge you to consider doing so. Women’s teams in the current 2013-14 season (and other recent seasons) dribble better, play defense better, shoot better, and pass better than those teams I remember from when I was watching games from 1976 to the mid 1980s.
Even parity may be gradually coming to women’s college basketball. Last year in the Division I women’s NCAA tournament, Louisville upset a Baylor team that was the heavy preseason favorite to win the national championship. Though Louisville lost to a traditional women’s basketball power (Connecticut) in the championship game, it was an exciting season with some surprises.
Parity is even more visible in the Southeastern Conference, where Tennessee and Georgia sometimes seemed to dominate years ago. In the 2013-14 preseason, Tennessee and Kentucky were considered heavy favorites to compete for the Southeastern Conference title. They may still do so, but about half way through the conference schedule, Tennessee has already suffered two conference losses; Kentucky has four. Georgia (a traditional power under coach Andy Landers, second only to Tennessee in conference success over the years) has five SEC losses, and Arkansas (undefeated in its nonconference schedule this season) has six conference losses. The above figures include games played on January 30, 2014 and earlier.
As a UK basketball fan, I am especially impressed with the defensive hustle of the Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team in recent years under Coach Matthew Mitchell. Based on the home SEC games I’ve seen Kentucky play this season, I think the UK defense has inspired imitations from other SEC schools.
I look forward to the rest of the SEC women’s basketball season and the upcoming women’s 2014 NCAA tournament. Undefeated Connecticut is the heavy favorite to win the national title, but who knows? If Connecticut gets overconfident due to its impressive start to the season, a national power like Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke, Louisville, or one of the top SEC schools may manage to beat Connecticut. Perhaps a little known team will even pull off an upset. Basketball fans, let’s enjoy women’s college basketball.