Every season, women’s basketball commentators start playing fast and loose with the word "parity." The idea — which really caught hold in 1997, when Old Dominion made it to the National Championship game — is that mid-major schools are now able to recruit with the Pat Summitts and and Geno Auriemmas of the world, which means that they should be able to actually compete with the Lady Vols and the Huskies.
It’s all been a bit of a pipe dream, really. In the years since ODU made it to the title game, Connecticut or Tennessee won eight of the eleven National Championship games. In three of those 11 games, they faced each other.
This year, though, it actually seems like "parity" might be more than a buzz word.
We’re only two weeks into the season and there is upset noise all around.
Michigan lost to Akron and then rolled over No. 13 Vanderbilt. Detroit dropped two games and then beat No. 23 SEC-powerhouse Georgia. Florida lost to Florida Gulf Coast (yes, a real school), and then beat No. 21 Florida State in Tallahassee. After committing a sickening 25 turnovers and shooting 27 percent from the field, Hartford (yes, another real school) rolled over No. 5 Duke. Duke!
Tennessee almost lost to Chattanooga, a defeat that, in Knoxville, would have been akin to a couple of kids with sling shots defeating the entire armed forces of the United States of America.
On Nov. 16, the Women’s Hoops Blog quipped, "Just so I can be the first to say it this season — has parity come to the women’s game?"
On Nov. 17, after UConn played an unexpectedly tough game against Georgia Tech, and Baylor upset Stanford, Women’s Hoops asked again, "No really, has parity come to the women’s game?"
On Nov. 21, after all the madness mentioned above, Women’s Hoops said one last time, "No, REALLY, has parity come to the women’s game????"
It’s a fair question, and unlike years past, it actually deserves to be asked.
Pat Summitt is famous for saying, "Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships." There’s truth to that, of course. I mean, Pat Summitt knows what she’s talking about: she’s Pat Summitt — but there are other things that go into winning championships: seasoned coaches, tough schedules, player experience and, quite frankly, legacies.
If Florida Gulf Coast doesn’t make it to the Elite 8, no one notices. If Tennessee doesn’t make it, it’s the biggest story in women’s basketball in over a decade. There’s a lot to be said for the motivation of a program that demands national championships.
The early season upsets are fun to watch, but I think it may be too early to call the playing field, er, basketball court, equal. What about you? Do you think the long-fabled parity has come to the women’s game at last?