Like South Carolina had a month prior
, the South Carolina State Bulldogs were also holding a women's/men's doubleheader at 5:30 P.M. at the SHM Memorial Center. But this time it was like most other occasions where the women play before the men. During MEAC play, nearly all conference games have the women playing prior to the men. The same is often true with most conference games below the Black Line as well as the case for almost all high school games outside of tournaments. Unlike the South Carolina doubleheader where most people cared about the women's game, this was a standard doubleheader between SCSU and Florida A&M where most people in Orangeburg cared more about the men's game later that evening. The difference between the crowd sizes was smaller than usual on this evening between the women and the men, perhaps because it was Martin Luther King Day and the 5:30 tip time was less restrictive for some people. Or maybe it was because the women's teams of both FAMU and SC State had been more respectable lately than their men's teams. Either way, there were still not that many people here. The 5:30 start probably helps the women's attendance in the final few minutes, but likely hurts it most games for the first few minutes of the game.
Even if I were not doing the recap here for this week's challenge, I would have likely gone to the game. A women's basketball game is a chance to see more competitive basketball, and who can go wrong with that? While this does help the Hopping Cats as far as writing challenge points, it will not turn up on this website as Game #9-??? But for my own statistical database, this did count as Basketball 2013 Game 106, with the men's game ending up as Game 107. I do note the distinction between the two genders as a note in the database, but they are considered two games in the sport of basketball. I have always paid attention to the women's game, but never as close attention to the men's game. If there was a big women's game on ESPN and no good men's games on when I was growing up, I might consider watching the women's game. But there was no way I would generally watch a women's game when I could see a men's game, which is still true for the most part today. I am not sure when the first time I saw a women's college game in person was, although it could quite possibly be not until I first got to High Point. Once I was at High Point, the women's basketball team was just another Panther team I could root for. At that point, I no longer cared about watching popular teams. I wanted to just root for High Point, as I had in high school rooted for my school to win there as well even if for logistical reasons I usually got there late. And the High Point women were usually slightly better than the men, and did win the Big South regular season title when I was a junior at HPU. I have often noticed that at mid-majors in particular most of the crowd consists of the most loyal followers of the men's team. Following the women's team is just an extension of their loyalty to their school.
But while I am happy to accept seeing high quality women's games from time to time and seeing them attached to a men's game I am going to, I still will always prefer the men's game. And the reason for that is made clear by Kyle in his first writing about women's basketball
. The game is "played too close to the floor" as the women cannot jump like the men can. Even disregarding the five to six inch difference between the women and men on average, you do not have to be at the level of a NBA scout to note the other physical advantages men have beside size. The men's game is a much faster game, the kind of game that makes people like basketball. You see more jumping and dunking, and the plays in men's basketball that excite the crowd rarely happen in women's basketball. What you see in women's basketball is what Kyle referred to as "banging post play" at the high levels of the game such as in the WNBA. And as Kyle points out, this is not always fundamental basketball even though that is considered the strength of the women against the men. I have seen women make fundamental mistakes especially at the lower levels of the game that the men would never make. When I was I went to middle school games in 7th and 8th grade, I did not think the girls' games looked like they were of a higher quality than the rec league games I played in at the YMCA when I was 10. I remember five years ago in the state title game of the smallest classification in South Carolina where the losing team's only play on offense was to have their quick but undersized point guard drive the length of the court every time just about. Women's basketball always seems to be a level behind the men's game. In my statistical database, college men average one full point per possession in games they win. College women on the other hand average 0.9 PPP in games they win, about the same as high school boys. And high school girls average 0.7 PPP in games they win, and often times any pressure on the point guard in a bad high school girls' game creates an instant turnover. I would really like to see women's basketball improve. But you can't avoid stats like the PPP I just mentioned from my database, and part of the reason the game cannot improve is because the women just are not as good.
Yet make no mistake about it, women's sports are good and Title IX has been very beneficial to American society. Just because the sport is of a lower quality and less marketable does not mean it should not exist. Playing sports and being physically active should be of equal opportunity, and it does not make sense to say that half of the country should not try. The women's athletes I have seen before and saw today at SC State make a valiant effort even if their equivalent men are better athletically. Once when writing on my HPU message board I remarked that women have the same disadvantages in sports as a 150 pound man would have at trying to make it into big-time American-style football. Small men and all women will always have disadvantages that prevent them from becoming great athletic stars in the conventional sense. And for that football analogy, there are several schools in the Northeast that actually have a team in what is called Sprint Football
, a game of American-style football where only small men are allowed to play. And of course various combat sports also have weight classifications as well. Small men and women should have opportunities to have athletic success. But the next logical step is to have people appreciate their skills. So how best do we do that?
One suggestion my mom has had for years when she has seen women's basketball is to see the basket lowered by several inches. My mom is convinced that this could lead to the above-the-rim play in women's basketball that we have come to love in the men's game. The only problem is that this is not always very practical, with small gyms like SC State having basket supports that in their current state could not be lowered. And convincing schools to spend money on new baskets that could be lowered would be met with resistance. Not to mention that for the most part we would just see more banging post play with still relatively few dunks. I have thought of an even less practical solution of bringing in each baseline and basket five to ten feet closer to mid-court for women's games to allow for a quicker and higher energy game. But the lowering the basket idea that my mom likes has actually occasionally gotten traction. FIBA has proposed it for international play
, and more recently UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma has supported the idea of well. Auriemma proposed lowering the basket 7.2 inches to honor Title IX, which is ridiculously stupid considering that Title IX was for women's equality and lowering the basket does the opposite of that. Auriemma's idea is that the missed layups that plague the women's game today would then be less likely. But in the case of Auriemma, it seems odd that the biggest voice in women's basketball would be a man. Auriemma may have a lot of experience coaching women, but he never played the game itself as a woman. So why should Auriemma or any of us among the males here who watch women's basketball have a say in what women should play? ESPN had a pretty good counter-opinion from a former women's player who detested the few rule differences
that do exist between the women and men (which Bill Harty in his challenge covered briefly
). And I have also found it odd that men like Auriemma can be as powerful as they are in the women's game, which to me seems to undermine it. Ideally, it would be great to see men coach women some of the time and women coach men some of the time. A couple years ago the coach of the runner-up of the prestigious Beach Ball Classic in high school boys'
basketball was a woman. But for the most part, women do not coach men. We have better equality for women playing sports, but going in the wrong direction for women coaching sports as this ESPN article mentions
. The NCAA has become concerned with those numbers cited in that article, and was one problem mentioned in the rejection of Presbyterian's hastily first written self-study. In tonight's game, both Florida A&M and SC State had men coaching the women's teams. The best step for equality just might be equality of the game. My internsip supervisor at USC Sumter (a man but who has women in his family who play and coach sports) said in response to what Auriemma proposed that part of what has helped women's basketball grow is its similarity to Our Game. Changing women's basketball to make it more appealing could make it like softball is today, which is too much of a watered down version of baseball. You need a separate facility for softball than baseball, so some schools like High Point do not have a softball team. And that is probably why I pay less attention to softball than women's basketball.But the comparisons between women's basketball and men's basketball also make for trying to compare the two too much. I remember Kyle chastising ESPN sportz shows once when they discussed if then-UConn star Maya Moore could play in Our Game. But when most of us men watch women's basketball, we have only the men's game to compare it to. We know that any women's basketball star or even the MEAC players I saw here are way better at basketball than your average man. But how much better? Who would win in a game between an elite women's team and Toccoa Falls? Could the MEAC women's teams I was watching tonight beat a really bad high school boys' team? On the high school track and field website Milesplit, I was able to figure that the best high school girl could outrun about 95 percent of the boys in an average high school track event. That sounds pretty good, until you realize that the top girl is far better than any other girl and many of the boys in that 95 percent could barely make a high school meet. But when watching this contest, the challenge for us males is just focusing on how good these teams are at in their side of the game. It's good that that they play the same basic game as the men, but they are not the men. This is the Other Side of Our Game, and we must watch it for what it is.
One big problem with the women's game that Kyle focused on in his piece is that the women's game has fewer successful mid-majors. There have been teams like Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech that historically have had great success, but not lately. But while no 16 seed has won in the men's NCAA Tournament, it has happened in the women's tournament once. High Point has never had a RLU in men's basketball, but the women beat Florida a few years ago. Florida A&M, SC State's opponent tonight, has as well in the past. And SCSU has beaten Clemson this season as well. Clemson has also lost to Presbyterian and was Stendhaled in an exhibition by Anderson, so that might not be saying much. But both teams would be fighting for critical ground in the MEAC tonight, which made it ultimately more important than the men's game later where the teams would just be hoping to stay out of the basement.
The game started out fairly well played. At the first media timeout, both teams had eight possessions as the Bulldogs led 10-7. But then unfortunately turnovers hit SC State hard and Florida A&M quickly took the lead. SCSU hung around for a while as FAMU was hurt by poor shooting. When shooting two pointers, the Rattlers on the night shot a mind boggling bad 14 for 44. But yet Florida A&M still led most of the game and took control of the game with a 15-1 run late in the first half. But the poor shooting Rattlers could never manage much more than a ten point lead and the Bulldogs stayed in the game. Once SCSU got points off turnovers in the second half, it seemed that they could use that momentum alongside the late arriving crowd to victory. But turnovers began to hurt again as SCSU in the final minutes was not able to find a quality shot. The Bulldogs drew many fouls, but could not make the free throws they needed down the stretch. SCSU shot 6 for 17 on free throws on the night. Shooting percentages you would think would not be as bad for the women especially as they play with a smaller ball. Women have occasionally beaten the men at the College Three Point Contest held during the week of the Final Four. But SC State, not a team that relies on size either, was not able to get the big shots when they needed. Florida A&M would come up with a 61-56 win on the road that would be crucial in the MEAC standings. This fit well into the "two evenly-matched teams = good game" philosophy Kyle mentioned in his piece on women's basketball. But yet a 61-56 game on 78 possessions is not a very pretty game of basketball either.
But yet I went to this game, and the lower quality of play will not stop me from attending women's basketball games in the future. I have written about women's basketball at High Point before in previous recaps, as well as the big South Carolina-Stanford game in the doubleheader previously mentioned. And I root for my teams the same. I get just as frustrated watching the HPU women struggle as I do when watching the men's team struggle, and get just as excited when the HPU women get a big win as they did that time against Florida. And the fact that I have given up on the South Carolina men makes me care more about the women's games there. In Kyle's final epilogue after Season 7, he mentioned how after a women's game the women thanked him for coming, which made him feel bad since he really did not watch the game as he was preparing for the men's game that followed. I remember one student at South Carolina having an opposite reaction when the women did the same there, feeling insulted by that same statement as he always comes to the women's games just like the men's games. The women's game still has room to improve, but physical biology will always prevent the women's game from catching the men's game. But if you truly care about your school and Our Game, make sure you deliver the same passion into wanting your women's team to succeed. Even the late arrivers at SC State tonight wanted to see their team win, and were disappointed just as they would be in the men's game that followed. This has so far been my favorite Challenge of Season 9, as it allows our fans on here to finally watch the game related to ours. For much of us especially among male fans like myself, women's basketball is just a lesser game. But for a 51 percent majority of Americans, women's basketball for them fits in as being truly "Our Game". So if you have not been to a women's game lately, make sure you do soon. Do not think of the teams as the "Lady Rattlers" or the "Lady Bulldogs" (which most MEAC schools still use officially, which is too much of a sexist discriminatory throwback in my view). Think of them as just simply the "Rattlers" and the "Bulldogs" because they are our student athletes just like the players on the men's team are.