Women's March Madness

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When Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball as an activity for his students in physical education classes at the Young Men's Christian Association Training School in 1891, it is doubtful that he ever envisioned that it would be a game young ladies would play. Yet today, thousands of young women play amateur and professional basketball, with the cullmiation of the college season coming in March with the NCAA Division I tournament.


But by the 1920s, women's basketball was played at many American colleges and in quite a few high schools. However the form of play is hardly recognizable to the game today. The ladies played on the same sized court and with a regulation ball, but had to play a weird-looking hybrid of the game we know today.

  • The standard team of five players was broken into three components - defensive, offensive and roving players. The defensive players, of which there were two, were required to guard their basket and could not move upcourt more than the foul line. The single rover played in the center of the court between the two foul lines. The two offensive players were not permitted to move beyond the area between the offensive basket and the foul line.

  • The players were not allowed to dribble* and instead had to pass the ball after taking three steps. This means that advancing the ball involved running three steps and passing, with long passes from the rover in the middle of the court.

Thankfully, the women now play the same game as the men, just with shorter periods of play.

The next hurdle was gaining acceptance for their play and women's athletics in general.

Women joined the NCAA's activities in 1980. A year later, the NCAA adopted an extensive governance plan to include women's athletics programs, services and representation. The first women's basketball tournament was played in 1982 with a field of 32 teams. More than 9,500 people attended the championship game between Louisiana Tech and Cheyney State, a game the Lady Techers won 76-62.

While the women's tournament still is a relative newcomer, in recent years women's college basketball has seen tremendous growth. How far have the women come? In 1994, the tournament expanded to 64 teams, the same as the
men's tournament. The 1999 tournament's championship game (a 62-45 victory by Purdue over Duke) 17,773 attended and the tourney's overall attendance topped more than a quarter million.

The Tournament

Thirty teams get an automatic bearth to the NCAA Tournament by winning their conference championships. The remaining 34 teams receive at-large bearths.* Once the 64 teams are chosen, the selection committee must still determine the 'seeding' of the teams in the tournament by filling out the 'Tournament Bracket'.

The bracket is split into four regions: East, South, Midwest, and West, with 16 teams placed in each region and given a ranking by the committee. A number 1 seed is given to the best team in each region, a No. 2 seed is given to the second best team, and so on through to the No. 16 seed. In the first round, the best team plays the worst team (No 1 vs. No. 16), the second-best team plays the second-worst team (No. 2 vs. No. 15) and so on.

The first and second rounds of the tournament are hosted by the campuses of 16 participating schools. The 'Sweet 16' and the 'Elite 8' play their regional games in a host city's arena. The 'Final Four' and Championship games are held in a host city which hopes to gain exposure and big bucks through the event.

The first and second rounds of the 2000 tournament will be played March 17 and 19 and March 18 and 20. The finals will be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 31 and April 2.

The Bracket

Once the selection committee has completed the bracket, it is published in most major newspapers across America. This bracket is then photocopied and distributed throughout offices across the land for wagering purposes.* Prior to the start of the tournament, each gambler plunks down a set fee to participate in the pool and selects a winner for every game through the championship game. The rules vary from contest to contest, but usually points are awarded for each correct pick, with the later rounds being worth more points. Whoever guesses right the most is the winner of all that cold cash.

Picking the teams is not as easy as you might expect, and the person who picks the favourites to win each game invariably grouses about the selection committee's poor job of seeding the teams. In a single-elimination tournament of this nature, upsets are bound to occur - the trick is knowing when and where they will occur to improve your odds of winning the money.

The champions

  • 1982: Louisiana Tech defeated Cheyney, 76-62.

  • 1983: Southern California defeated Louisiana Tech, 69-67.

  • 1984: Southern California defeated Tennessee, 72-61.

  • 1985: Old Dominion defeated Georgia, 70-65.

  • 1986: Texas defeated Southern California, 97-81.

  • 1987: Tennessee defeated Louisiana Tech, 67-44.

  • 1988: Louisiana Tech defeated Auburn, 56-54.

  • 1989: Tennessee defeated Auburn,76-60.

  • 1990: Stanford defeated Auburn, 88-81.

  • 1991: Tennessee defeated Virginia, 70-67 (OT.)

  • 1992: Stanford defeated Western Kentucky, 78-62.

  • 1993: Texas Tech defeated Ohio State, 84-82.

  • 1994: North Carolina defeated Louisiana Tech, 60-59.

  • 1995: Connecticut defeated Tennessee, 70-64.

  • 1996: Tennessee defeated Georgia, 83-65.

  • 1997: Tennessee defeated Old Dominion, 68-59.

  • 1998: Tennessee defeated Louisiana Tech, 93-75.

  • 1999: Purdue defeated Duke, 62-45.

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