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.

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