Classic Basketball Wednesday: NCAA talking points for dummies and the Clarkbueckoning

Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, Feb. 28, 2024

(Please enjoy this classic Basketball Wednesday, first published here March 24, 2021, but oddly relevant to this day about the NCAA, Caitlin Clark and Paige Bueckers.)

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Look, let’s get this out of the way so we can get to the basketball.

The NCAA did not treat its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments equally. This was not an oversight, it is reflective of years of choices that simply showed up in an easy-to-understand, visual way with the two very different weight rooms. Anyone, whether from the NCAA or a reporter parroting those talking points, who tries to tell you otherwise is not doing you or anybody a service in the process.

As always in these instances, there are very insistent men in your social media timelines who will come at you with some easily debunkable talking points. So here, enjoy:

The NCAA is making a business decision.

Nope! The NCAA is a nonprofit.

The NCAA isn’t subject to Title IX.

Maybe? A case 20+ years ago said this, ruling narrowly (in terms of law), it hasn’t been tested since, the NCAA is made up of member organizations who are subject to Title IX (and may themselves be out of compliance!) and that entire structure is rickety for lots of other reasons. But the NCAA’s stated goals are to provide equality of opportunity, and they don’t do that.

If the women’s tournament made as much money as the men’s tournament, the NCAA would treat them the same way.

Once we live in a world where men didn’t decide to ban the women’s tournament from using March Madness branding — the kind of decision at the beginning of the process that predetermines disparities in how revenue looks at the end of it — maybe I’ll consider that as a reasonable argument. It’s just absurd on its face at the moment, given what we know. (Seriously, Rachel, Louise and Laine, this was the most important story of the week. Kudos.)

I’ve spoken here and on social media about the most basic way we see this: the logos. Seems small, right? There’s Final Four for the men, and Women’s Final Four for the women. We’re othering women right out of the gate.

We in the media got to ask Dan Gavitt about the issues facing the two bubbles, and his answers largely boiled down to “We’d love to make everything equal, but that costs money, see, and a committee needs to decide on things.”

But it is a committee that approves the logo. Every year. Logos are made. Every year. The decision is made. Every year. And the decision is to make the men the main event and women the add on. Every year.

If somebody tells me the addition of the word “men” to the logo is going to cost money and they can’t do it, well, I’m betting it’s the same folks who tried to pretend that the weight rooms were always going to be the same, and it is all fine, actually.

They’e exhausting as hell.

You know who isn’t? Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark. AND WE GET TO SEE THEM FACE OFF ON SATURDAY.

Hell yes, I’m excited!

Briefly: Clark is more of a volume shooter, and a good one. Bueckers is a pass-first guard, but more efficient from the field. Clark has deeper range — at least, she more consistently uses that range. Bueckers is the better defender, though defense has been a focus from Clark in the NCAA Tournament.

And you should be prepared for Clark/Bueckers debates for the next 20 years. Because they are both transcendent talents.

Briefly, on the discourse: debating them is fun and good. Pretending that praise for one is somehow, inherently, dismissing the other is foolish.

Don’t miss it. This is Chapter One of a long, fun book.

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If you enjoy his coverage of women’s basketball every Wednesday, you will love “Rare Gems: How Four Generations of Women Paved the Way for the WNBA.” Click the link below and enter MEGDAL30 at checkout.

This week in women’s basketball

Here comes Arizona!

Emma Baccellieri goes long on Juju.

Get to know Madison St. Rose.

I love, love, love that CBS Sports gave Isabel Gonzalez a weekly column.

Get to know Clarke of Iowa. No, not that Clark. Clarke!

Great work from Angie Holmes on Lynette Woodard.

Five at The IX: Edona Thaqi, Fordham and Kosovo

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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.