April 14, 2024


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A great women's NCAA tournament doesn't deserve any more amateur mistakes

A great women's NCAA tournament doesn't deserve any more amateur mistakes

PORTLAND, Ore. — In the final minutes leading up to tip-off for the Elite Eight on Sunday afternoon, Texas coach Vic Schaefer's usual pregame routine came to a screeching halt.

Instead, he and N.C. State coach Wes Moore were checking out the Moda Center court before vying for a trip to the Final Four.

“I really wish I could have done what I usually do in the last 12 minutes before the game instead of walking around out there, trying to see if the floor was damaged or not,” Schaefer said.

With a group of officials nearby, he and Moore took turns walking steps from the free throw line to the top of the arc, others taking out a tape measure. In a strange series of events that the NCAA has yet to fully explain, both coaches received word that there was a discrepancy between their two three-point lines on the court. Moore later said that the Texas bench's submission was correct. Schiffer said the N.C. State Assembly's hearing was shorter.

Officials asked the coaches how to proceed. If both coaches agree to continue play, the game will end as scheduled. There was an option to bring someone in to reline the lines correctly, but it would have taken about an hour, Schaefer said. Coaches wondered whether such a delay would cost the players their coveted television spot on ABC, as well as the possible effects it might have on their team's rhythm and routine.

Schaefer was initially reluctant to play. But Moore didn't want to delay the game.

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“Wes wanted to play, and we played,” Schaefer said. “I wasn't going to be the guy who said, 'No, I don't want to do that.'”

So, the game began as planned, with NC State winning 76-66 for the team's first Final Four berth since 1998.

“I hate to say this, but I have a lot of colleagues who would say, ‘Only in women’s basketball,’” Schaefer said of the issue afterward. It's really a shame that this happened.


What happened Sunday in Portland was not just a disgrace, but an unacceptable stain on the NCAA, which after so much good faith apparently couldn't properly organize the women's tournament after being exposed to inequity versus the men's tournament in 2021.

It's not all the NCAA's fault, but this is at least the fourth controversy this season's tournament has seen since the first round began on March 22. The Utah State women's basketball team has switched hotels over safety concerns after racist chants were reported on the team. In Idaho. The mayor said the team hotel was located 30 miles east of Spokane, Washington, where the Utes' games were scheduled to be played, a distance that was within the rules but in a city that has problems with extremist groups. The NCAA arranged to move the team after the incident.

“For our players and staff to not feel safe in the NCAA Tournament environment, which is chaotic, that's why we moved hotels,” coach Len Roberts said.

In NC State's first-round game against Chattanooga, an official was removed at halftime because he was only discovered after a report of a conflict of interest. A quick Google search shows that Tommy Paris has a master's degree from Chattanooga. Earlier this weekend, Notre Dame star Hannah Hidalgo missed a crucial four minutes of play in a loss to Oregon State after an official asked her to remove the nose ring she had worn all season.

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And now this.

It's time for embarrassing moments to stop overshadowing what has become a great time in women's basketball, both competitively and in terms of the game's star power. UConn coach Geno Auriemma was right when he said Sunday that this year's Elite Eight games — featuring JuJu Watkins versus Paige Bueckers, Angel Reese versus Caitlin Clark and more — might end up being the most fun the sport has seen in ages.

These players are too dominant, and these coaches are too passionate about amateur hour to take over what is usually the most entertaining postseason in sports.

“It is what it is,” Schaefer said of the three-point issue. “It's a shame. That's all I can say.”

In two statements issued Sunday, the NCAA blamed its vendor — Connor Sports — for the error rather than taking any responsibility itself. The organization provided very few details in two statements — and did not answer multiple follow-up questions The athlete – That Schaefer had to explain the situation himself immediately after his team lost an emotional match to the Wolfpack.

“I mean, I'm not the culprit here. You're asking me about something I had no control over,” he said, laughing. “So Vic Schaeffer is not the problem.”

The NCAA said in a statement that it regrets the error was not discovered sooner and that the court will be corrected for Monday's UConn-USC game.

“At the conclusion of (Sunday's) game and practice in Portland, the NCAA will measure all court lines and markings on the court at the Moda Center,” the statement read in part.

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“While the NCAA vendor has apologized for the error, we will investigate how it happened in the first place. The NCAA is now working to ensure the accuracy of all court marks for future games.”

“We are not aware of any further issues at any of the previous sites for men’s or women’s championship matches.”

Moore said incorrect lines were drawn on the field for the duration of the regional tournament in Portland, which began Friday with eight teams. Both coaches noted they weren't sure how much the difference would matter in the end — especially for the Wolfpack, which shot 50 percent from 3-point range behind star guard Isaiah James, who scored 27 points and went 7 of 9 from deep. .

“If you look, I think we shot the ball better on the other side in both games because that's the natural line,” Moore said. “But I wouldn't blame that for that. I mean, these kids…shoot so far (the 3-point line) sometimes these days, who knows where the line is?” (James hit a triple pennant earlier in the weekend against Stanford.)

“I don't know that it was an advantage or a disadvantage either way. We both played a part at each end.

As we turn our attention to Monday's clashes – which should be exciting, by the way – it's time for the tournament to return to the magical moments we all know and love.

But women's basketball still deserves more, starting with the basics: precise court dimensions.

(Moda Center Court Photo: Ashley Young/ The athlete)