Welcome to the Big Dance (aka March Madness). On March 16, the NCAA kicks off its women’s basketball tournament. And this year, there are some (long overdue) changes to help bring more equity into the sport. We Skimm’d how major fouls have put the NCAA in the spotlight. And how the women's teams are making slam-dunk history this year.
Ahead of last year’s tournament, University of Oregon forward Sedona Prince exposed major inequities between the women's and men’s weight rooms during March Madness. On the women’s side: a single rack of dumbbells and some yoga mats. On the men’s side: an entire weight room with tons of equipment. And it wasn't just about their workout equipment. Men and women were also given different food, COVID-19 tests, swag bags, and more. Cue people across the country demanding answers from the NCAA.
In response, the NCAA commissioned a gender-equity review of its basketball tournaments. And the results confirmed what pretty much everyone knew all along: The NCAA was putting more funding and value in the men’s program, which has typically brought in more money. And women’s basketball was being undervalued. The NCAA said it would make some much-needed changes, bringing us to…
For the first time ever, this year’s women’s NCAA tournament will officially have the “March Madness” branding. Yep, you read that right. In the past, the term had largely been used in promos for the men’s tournament. But the NCAA said the new branding would help “elevate the women's basketball championship.” What a light-bulb moment.
Also new on this year’s March Madness game plan: the number of teams. This year, there will be 68 women’s teams competing — four more than in previous years. And for the first time, the women’s tourney is starting with the First Four (aka the first teams to hit the court to see who advances to the first round). Note: The men’s tournament has had 68 teams and the First Four round since 2011. Oh, and if you’re wondering…
We got you. The First Four starts on March 16. Here’s who’s playing:
March 16 at 7pm ET: No. 16 seeds Incarnate Word vs Howard
March 16 at 9pm ET: No. 11 seeds Dayton vs DePaul
March 17 at 7pm ET: No. 16 seeds Longwood vs Mount St. Mary's
March 17 at 9pm ET: No. 11 seeds Missouri State vs Florida State
You can watch the tournament on ESPN networks — including ESPNU and ESPN2 — and stream it on places like fuboTV and YouTube TV. Prep with some light reading about each competing team and some of the athletes to watch. Don’t forget to create your bracket. And download theSkimm App to sync our calendar with yours, so you know when all of the games are going down.
The NCAA women’s tournament is seeing major changes that put them one step closer to the men’s program. And it's important for female athletes to get the attention they deserve. But there's still more work to be done to balance out the playing field.
Skimm'd by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Maria McCallen, and Kamini Ramdeen-Chowdhury
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