March Madness isn’t just for the guys. The women’s tournament doesn’t get the coverage, money, or attention that the men’s does, but we can still support these amazing athletes and follow along. I started this post a few weeks ago, before the league correctly decided to cancel the tournament. However, I still wanted to highlight those women’s teams who would have made this tournament one to watch.
Before the field would have been set for 2020, each of the NCAA Division I conferences had their own tournament – that’s 32 conferences in total – to get to conference champions. These conference championships would have wrapped up by March 15. Then we’d have been able to announce the field and set some brackets!
There were no undefeated teams as of March 1, but there were three schools with only one loss: South Carolina, Baylor, and Princeton. South Carolina topped the AP Top 25 and had the most wins. Baylor came in behind with two fewer wins. Oregon, Louisville, and UConn rounded out the top 5. Because Princeton had fewer wins and fewer points and votes in the poll, even with only one loss they were ranked 21. Historically, the teams to watch were Baylor, Notre Dame, and, of course, UCONN. In 2019, Baylor won the championship, defeating Notre Dame 82-81. The year before Notre Dame took the championship, beating Mississippi State 61-58. UConn has won the women’s tournament 9 times in the past 19 years.
The selection show had been scheduled for March 16th and then we would have known what it was going to look like. As fans of March Madness know, anything can happen in March!
And anything did happen, just not the way we expected. The league championships were either played without fans, interrupted, or cancelled all together. The entire NCAA tournament was cancelled. Entirely. And for most people this means there isn’t good basketball on TV all the time for the next month. No distraction from the distraction. No office pools or friendly bets. For the host cities, like my home, it is an entirely different loss. Downtown streets are eerily empty of tourists sporting their team colors. Hotels are barely occupied instead of bursting at the seams. You can actually get food at a restaurant without a reservation or a interminably long wait. There aren’t Uber or Lyft everywhere trying to get people around. No fans trying to ride the BRT buses.
This loss of the tournament means financial and job insecurity for many people in the hospitality industry – the impact goes beyond basketball. These financial costs hit the workers that are already flirting with financial disaster the hardest. Social distancing is important during this crisis, but some of the damage can’t be measured by tests, symptoms, presumptive-positive cases, or even deaths.
There is no question that cancelling the tournament was the right thing to do. Yet, the impacts of these cancellations extend far outside the insular communities we have grown accustomed to living in. March Madness brought us together, and I look forward to next year, when we can hopefully come together again.