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Trinity’s 2024 Newsletter 03.25.24: An Equal Playing Field In WBB

March Madness Defending Champions LSU Tigers
AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

A week ago, after the doubleheader selection-show specials, I made my NCAA March Madness brackets. I was excited, as I had been waiting for March Madness since the college basketball season started. We all know that the men’s game is extremely unpredictable, with only one ‘lock’ headed into the tournament. This uncertainty creates awesome gameplay and an inability not to enjoy watching the tournament. After about thirty minutes, I had finished my men’s bracket and felt as confident as possible, being someone who watches women’s basketball almost exclusively. 

Then, I procrastinated filling out the women’s bracket for three days. Initially, I thought filling out the women’s bracket would be easier since that was what I knew. In reality, I seemed to know too much. Two weeks ago, I spoke about the transfer portal and its potential negative effects on players and teams. Additionally, this portal places players with immense potential across the playing field of Division One basketball. 

Now, at the beginning of March Madness, and before the tourney had even begun, that widespread amount of talent has become more apparent due to the already hard-to-pick matchups and the snubbed teams on the selection bubble. The women’s bracket is tough, and that’s why picking teams is so tough this year. I think this is good for the game as it showcases that the plane of women’s basketball has become equal. Let’s break it all down.


The Issue With March Madness ‘Upsets’

Last year, upsets were more than common. They were expected. This year, we’re experiencing the same phenomenon. I don’t think this is coincidental; in fact, I think it’s a testament to the talent and skill level that women’s basketball has grown to. The undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks are the majority fan favorite to win the title. However, they went down in the final four last year and are likely to fall either there or in the round before again. Defeating Presbyterian in the first round, South Carolina will most likely beat North Carolina in the second round. However, I’m not sure they’ll advance if they have to face #5 Oklahoma or #4 Indiana

Then, after that, if they have to face a team like #2 Notre Dame, who knows what the result will be? This isn’t just me speculating, but the facts. The Sooner’s leading scorer is senior forward Skylar Vann, a force in the paint. Her 14.7 points per game combined with her 7 rebounds have been too much for teams like Texas, Ole Miss, and BYU. Her performance put them within range to beat Tennesee, losing by just three points.

On top of this, their second-leading scorer, guard Payton Verhulst, is averaging just under 13 points per game and shooting 36% from three. This combination is scary, regardless of who you are or what team you play for. The playing field has become equal. I don’t think this equality is a bad thing; in fact, I think it’s good for the sport. With so much uncertainty, it calls for good games and ‘spoiler-free’ outcomes. Seriously, think about it.

In this tournament, there are a handful of teams with lower rankings that have a chance to dance—for example, #11 Middle Tennessee and #8 West Virginia. Middle Tennessee upset #6 Louisville, and for good reason. The Blue Raiders’ two leading scorers combined for 46 points and 7 three-pointers, while the Cardinals’ top two scorers had 29 points and 1 three-pointer.

Stats like this are riddled in the box score but don’t showcase the grit within the gameplay itself. Middle Ten. showed up and out-played Louisville to the final buzzer, which didn’t surprise many. While they fell to #3 LSU in the next round, they stayed steady with the defending champs throughout the third quarter. Then we can look at #8 West Virginia’s game against #9 Princeton

I will start by saying I thought Princeton would come away with the win, as I have been watching them pretty close throughout their season. Regardless, West Virginia took the game from within the first minute of the first quarter. It took them some time to pull away score-wise, but when they did, they didn’t stop. Guard Ja’Naiya Quinerly scored 29 points and stunned the Tigers’ starting five. 

The teams’ play was equal, yet West Virginia had the extra ability to continue to utilize their momentum, which won them the game. 


Snubs … Or Should We Call Them Unlucky Teams?

Let’s talk about the ACC and their play this season because the bottom half of that conference could be considered a ‘snub.’ The ACC had its top eight teams make the tourney but left out Miami, FL., a team I think deserved to get in.  Miami was snubbed with an overall record of 19-12 and a conference record of 8-10. For context, UNC was a go for the tourney with the same overall record but a conference record of 11-7. Last year, Miami was a bubble team, yet made it into the tourney as a 9 seed. They beat 8-seed Oklahoma St., 1-seed Indiana, and 4-seed Villanova before ultimately falling to 3-seed and future champion LSU. 

With starting guards Shayenn Day-Wilson and Jasmyne Roberts each averaging over 11 points per game, I think they would’ve made another impressive run if given the opportunity to dance this season. Another snub comes from the Big East and VillanovaThe Big East is an interesting conference. Many fans dismiss it as unimportant or something UConn ‘owns.’ In reality, it’s much more. 

The top three teams from this conference made it in UConn, Creighton, and Marquette. Villanova fell just outside of the selection, though holding the same conference record as Marquette — who I might add they beat in January and fell just short of beating in the Big East tournament by two points a few weeks ago. As mentioned earlier, they fell to Miami last year in the tournament, but this year, with star guard junior Lucy Olsen averaging 23.4 points per game for the Wildcats, seeing them attempt to make a run in the tournament would’ve been fun. 

These are two of my biggest snubs, but they’re coming from larger-known conferences. Plenty of teams across the Mid-American Conference, AAC, Atlantic 10, Big 12, etc., also did not get their name called on selection Sunday. So, in a tournament of 68 teams, is this a fixable issue, or is it even an issue at all? Should smaller/lesser-known conferences continue to be subjected to a ‘win your conference tournament to get into March Madness’ or nothing mentality?

The answer is no, and regardless of this, I think it shows that women’s basketball is growing in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s huge that I can sit here and pinpoint talent on so many non-March Madness rosters. There were so many teams left out that were of equal caliber to the ones let in, something unheard of. As we continue into the second round of play for the women’s tournament, I can’t help but grow more excited about what’s to come. We simply cannot predict what will happen.

These newsletters will run bi-weekly and will hold conversations on different information surrounding the world of basketball. 


Trinity Rea is a second-year student studying sports journalism and women’s and gender studies at Ball State University. She works at the Ball State Daily News as an associate news editor. In this role, she focuses on storytelling within the community. In addition, Trinity writes for the sports section and showcases stories behind the athletes. Outside of her love for sports and writing, she likes to listen to music, read, and hang out with her friends.

Contact Trinity Rea with questions at or on X @thetrinityrea

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