Are you not entertained? If not, the problem isn't women's basketball. It's you. | Opinion

Can we finally be done with all the silly stereotypes?

As ratings have risen, attendance has grown and more sponsors have signed on, the fragile male egos who can’t handle the idea of women’s sports being mainstream have fumbled around in desperate search of a new excuse to knock the NCAA Tournament. The latest, that there are no upsets and that the tournament is too predictable, went down in a flaming heap Saturday.

Or maybe those flames were from all the brackets that are now toast after a day when utter chaos reigned.

Six double-digit seeds advanced to the second round, one shy of the NCAA Tournament record, and third-seeded LSU needed a furious rally to withstand what would have been a historic upset. Belmont, in shades of the Gonzaga and Butler men’s teams two decades ago, advanced to the second round for a second consecutive year with a double-overtime win over fifth-seeded Oregon.

But, please, tell me again how this tournament isn’t exciting.

“People talk about there isn't any parity in women's basketball,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said after the 11th-seeded Tigers knocked off sixth-seed, and SEC champion, Kentucky. “It's actually March Madness in women's basketball now.”

It has been the last couple of years, really.

Belmont celebrates after upsetting No. 5 Oregon in the first round Saturday.
Belmont celebrates after upsetting No. 5 Oregon in the first round Saturday.

In 2018, six double-digit seeds advanced to the second round, the most since that record year of upsets in 1998. Buffalo and Central Michigan, both 11 seeds, went to the Sweet 16. In 2019, a five (Arizona State) and six seed (South Dakota State) reached the Elite Eight.

Last year, an 11 (BYU), 12 (Belmont) and 13 seed (Wright State) won in the first round. Sixth-seeded Texas took out second-seeded Maryland to reach the Elite Eight, while third-seeded Arizona knocked off a two (Texas A&M) and one seed (UConn) on its way to the national championship game.

There was no NCAA Tournament in 2020 because of COVID.

“Like we say in our half-court shots at shootaround when someone makes it, it's contagious. I think whenever a 12 seed sees that other 12 seeds are doing it, it lights some hope up … just knowing that it can be done,” said Belmont’s Conley Chinn, whose layup with 1:49 left in the second overtime tied the game at 70.

Added Belmont coach Bart Brooks, “There's a lot of mid-major teams that are good enough to compete with the big guys. There are.”

For whatever reason, there are people – men, mostly – who seem to take it as a personal affront that women’s sports are growing. They make it their mission to knock the game, not realizing that all they’re doing is telling on their own insecurities.

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Sports business analyst Darren Rovell was so put out at seeing a Buick ad spotlighting the unequal treatment given to women’s sports that he took to Twitter on Sunday to bash the NCAA women’s tournament.

“Women get less coverage during March Madness because there’s less madness, fewer upsets and the bracket is predictable. That’s all. It’s not the same product,” he tweeted.

Aside from the fact that nobody asked him, and that Rovell has used similar tropes before – he once tried to say that the U.S. women’s soccer team wasn’t marketable. I believe Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe would like a word – Rovell’s claim is completely ignorant of history. And facts.

Men’s sports have had a 50-year head start, at least, on women’s sports. They have received financial support and exposure at a level women’s sports have never come close to getting. Despite that, women’s sports – women’s basketball in particular – have grown, and we’re seeing the results of that.

The WNBA will begin its 26th season in June. The current college players are the first generation of women who have known for their entire lives that playing basketball could be a career option.

“There's good youth basketball around the country, and I think basketball is a lot more visible now than it was 10, 15 years ago on the women's side,” Brooks said. “There's a lot of little girls that grow up seeing the WNBA on TV, they see the NCAA Tournament, you can watch a lot of games now, and I think that exposure has helped grow our game holistically.

“There's a lot more good players in the game than maybe there's been 10, 15, 20 years ago, and I think that's helped with the parity.”

The days of UConn and Tennessee hoarding the best players in a talent arms race are over. Jackson State’s Miya Crump, who gave LSU fits, could play anywhere. Same for Belmont’s Tuti Jones. There are NBA teams who’d be envious of Florida Gulf Coast’s “Raining 3s” after the Eagles made 15 of them in their win over Virginia Tech on Friday.

While South Carolina is clearly the best team, ranked No. 1 all season, the Gamecocks are far from assured of cutting down the nets April 3. Kentucky proved that in the SEC tournament. In fact, there are about a half-dozen teams that could make a legitimate claim to the national title, something that hasn’t been the case since, well, pretty much ever.

And when – not if, when – the NCAA finally goes away from holding the first- and second rounds at campus sites, that will only level the playing field further.

“This is my fourth NCAA Tournament. We've had two neutral floors and we won two of those games. That's a big deal,” Brooks said. “I think there's a lot of growth that still has to happen with the women's game. (But) I think it's moving in a really good direction.”

If you can’t see that, if you’re not entertained, then the problem isn’t the women’s game. It’s you.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NCAA Tournament chaos helps dispel claim women's games aren't exciting