Women's College Basketball Headed For New Era

04/13/2021

The last few decades of women's college basketball were synonymous with the dominance the top programs showed. It was not uncommon to see the four #1 seeds make the final four. But we are headed for a new era that is going to flip the script altogether. A new era of parity, an era where the talent is spread evenly across the country. 

We are slowly getting to the end of seeing women's college basketball team rattle off undefeated seasons.

Where undefeated seasons are an extreme rarity in most competitive sports, undefeated championship seasons are not that uncommon in Women's basketball. In fact, the last time UCONN won the NCAA tournament was in 2016, with an undefeated 38 and 0 record. UCONN alone has done it five times since 2000, Baylor and Kim Mulkey did it in 2012, and there have been eight such seasons in the 39 seasons since the Women's tournament started in 1982.

At one point, between 2014 and 2017, we saw UCONN win 111 straight games, in which they won all but three games by at least 10 points.

That is the kind of singular dominance that has been the image of women's college basketball for decades, but that is all about to change.

Women's basketball is only just now starting to get the notoriety and attention it craves and deserves. And as that happens, the field is only going to get more saturated with talent. With this, all of women's college basketball will improve, and the gap between the top and the rest will drastically decline.

For precedent, let's look at Men's college basketball. Women's college basketball started in 1982, which is a relatively short time for a competition. For comparison, the first Men's college basketball season was in 1939.

In the early days of Men's college basketball, the talent gap was enormous, much like these early days of Women's college basketball.

In the 20 years between 1956 and 1976, men's college basketball saw seven undefeated champions. Since that 1976 Indiana team, there have been ZERO undefeated seasons. 7 in 20 years, followed by zero in 45 years. Gonzaga falling short of that goal means the drought continues.

It is common across many other sports and leagues when they first start to see unprecedented dominance at the very top. 

  • For example, the Boston Celtics won 11 NBA championships in 13 years between 1957 and 1969 as the NBA was starting to surge in popularity.
  • All four of the NFL's undefeated seasons were in the 1920s.
  • The 17 winningest regular seasons in MLB history were all before 1954.

What this shows is that as a sport grows in popularity, it gets more competitive.

Women's College Basketball is only 39 years old, and what we see now is that the league is in the middle of a surge in popularity, which means an increase in talent and competition.

I predicted recently that UConn would finish next season without a loss. In all likelihood, if UConn pulls it off, next season may be the last undefeated season we see in women's college basketball for a long time.

So with that context understood, it's clear that we are heading for a new era of women's college basketball, an era that will be more competitive than anything we have seen.


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