UConn Back In The Final Four: Is Parity For Women’s Basketball Out Of Reach?

When I saw the score of the UConn-Duke game it made me wonder when women’s college basketball will achieve some sense of parity and competitive balance.  75-40 is a ridiculous score for an elite eight game, especially one that includes a 1st and 2nd seed.  So I did this short study to determine if this score is indicative of lack of parity or just an exception.  There were some mixed results that were also somewhat surprising.
As seen in the table below, Regional Final (Elite Eight) games show about a 5 point difference in scoring margin difference between the men and the women over the last ten years. 

That difference is significant and shows that there is still a measurable talent gap between the top 10 or 15 teams and the rest of women’s college basketball.  However, that is not the end of the story.  When you look at another measure, average scoring margin in games where both teams are at least a 2 seed, the parity gap between men and women narrows.  I use that measure because a 1 or 2 seed can’t play another 1 or 2 seed until the Elite Eight or Final Four, where presumably the pretenders and cinderellas are weeded out.  Since 2002 there have 24 of these games in the men’s tournament and 38 in the women’s tournament.  These numbers confirmed my suspicions; the men’s tournament doesn’t have as many 1 vs 2, 1vs 1, or 2 vs 2 games because there are more upsets.  However, the average scoring margin for men was 10.6 and the women’s was only slightly, if insignificantly higher at 11.3.

At the completion of this study I came to the conclusion that the men’s game has a minimal edge of over the women’s game when comes to parity amongst the top 15 teams. As for the rest of teams, a tremendous gap still exists and may never be closed. Additionally, part of the 5 point gap between women and men in Elite Eight scoring margins is that any cinderella or upstart team in the women’s game is usually overmatched and blown out in the Elite Eight.

Other Posts:

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/04/can-nba-team-peak-too-soon-and-still.html
http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/vcu-butler-final-four-matchup-would-be.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/were-yankees-best-offense-in-baseball.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/nfls-new-kickoff-rules-are-they.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/carmelo-what-has-he-done-to-knicks.html

A VCU – Butler Final Four Matchup Will Be Historic.

With their win over Kansas Sunday, VCU set up a Final Four game in which each team will have been unranked for at least 17 of 19 AP polls this season.  VCU was unranked all year and Butler was unranked for all but the first two weeks of the season.  There has been only 4 instances, since the Top-25 era began in 1989, where the two teams meeting in a Final Four game have been unranked at some point in the season.  2006 Florida was the only one to win the National Title, but they were only unranked for the first two weeks of the season.

Other Posts:

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/04/can-nba-team-peak-too-soon-and-still.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/were-yankees-best-offense-in-baseball.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/butler-did-it-butler-joins-some-rare.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/rare-elite-eight-only-one-top-seed.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/nfls-new-kickoff-rules-are-they.html

http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/carmelo-what-has-he-done-to-knicks.html

The Butler Did It: Butler Joins Some Rare Company On Its Way To The Final Four.

With a win today against Florida, Butler joined a some rare company. They became the fifth unranked team to reach the Final Four since the Top 25 era started in 1989. The other four teams were UNC in 2000, Wisconsin in 2000, Indiana in 2002, and George Mason in 2006. Of those teams, only Indiana made it to the Championship Game, which is not too surprising when you look at the table below. Indiana was ranked up until one week before the tournament and was unranked for a smaller portion of the season than the other four teams. 2000 UNC was unranked for the last 8 weeks of the season, this year’s Butler was unranked for the last 17 weeks of the season, and amazingly; 2006 George Mason and 2000 Wisconsin were unranked for the entire season. There were also 15 other teams who made the Final Four while being unranked at some point in the season, but they were ranked by the time the tournament started.
“Weeks Unranked” Before Tournament is How Many Consecutive Weeks Unranked Before Tournament.

Let’s look at each instance individually. As stated earlier, this season’s Butler team was unranked for the last 17 weeks of the season. Their run is not as improbable as it seems when you look at their body of work. Their absence from the Top 25 had more to do with the poll voters overlooking them than their actual play. While they did have a three-game hiccup in conference play, they still had good conference and non-conference records.  One would think that last year’s run would have given them some benefit of the doubt with the voters. They were undoubtedly overlooked because they lost Gordon Hayward to the NBA and bias against the mid-major conferences.

The 2000 Tarheels had sufficient talent to make the Final Four and they displayed that talent during their 9-4 run through their early non-conference schedule. But when they got into conference play they began to struggle and dropped from the top 25 for good when they lost 4 conference games in a row, the last being to a weak Florida State team. A good showing in the ACC tournament would have probably gotten them back in the Top 25, but they lost in the first round to Wake Forest. When they hit the NCAA tournament as 8th seed their talent began to gel and they got lucky when Kenyon Martin got injured and the 2nd seed Cincinnati lost in the 2nd round to Tulsa. Bottom Line: Their ranking, or lack thereof, said they shouldn’t have made the Final Four, but their talent warranted their “surprise run”.
The 2000 Badgers stayed unranked the entire season and I can’t really explain their run; except to say that their slow-paced, defense first style, combined with some luck, helped them a great deal during the tournament. George Mason in 2006 also had a inexplicable run to the Final Four; it was a true Cinderella story.
If the last 20 years is any guide, Butler should probably lose in the Final Four, but if recent history and common sense prevail, you can expect them to at least get to the title game.
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