• September 30, 2014

Analysis Women's Final Four berth should be decided on neutral floor

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 12:38 am

Wisconsin needed every second of an overtime game and every fortunate bounce to defeat Arizona in the NCAA men’s tournament on Saturday.

It needed all 28 points and each of the 11 rebounds junior Frank Kaminsky grabbed to defeat the top-seeded Wildcats, who spent a majority of the season as the No. 1 team in the nation.

And the Badgers did all of it in the heart of Pac 12 country in Anaheim.

Now, imagine Wisconsin having to do it in the heart of Wildcat country in Tucson.

That is the challenge facing the Baylor women tonight when they take on top-seeded Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., for the right to advance to the Final Four in Nashville.

Glorified home games are quite the norm on the men’s side.

One can argue that is what Arizona played against Wisconsin on Saturday.

That is certainly what Wisconsin played in its second-round victory against Oregon in Milwaukee.

Favorable location is often considered a reward for earning a higher seed.

Fine.

But this is different.

Upsets are rarer on the women’s side where the talent gap between top-tier programs and mid-tier programs is considerably wider than on the men’s side.

Baylor is no mid-tier program, but the challenge of defeating unbeaten Notre Dame is a steep one for any team.

Now, the Lady Bears must do it on the Irish’s home floor where they defeated ranked opponents by an average of 17.8 points per game in the regular season.

Notre Dame’s closest home game this season was an 11-point win against Duke on Feb. 23.

The Lady Bears have only lost four games this season, but two came away from home, including a 16-point loss to Kansas in Lawrence.

Baylor will need to play more like it did five days later in a 69-66 overtime win at then-No. 8 Oklahoma State than it did in that game in Lawrence if it hopes to keep up with the top-seeded Irish.

But at the end of the day, the prospect of a true road game in the Elite Eight is an obstacle that shouldn’t exist.

The idea is that potential home games present a sport that has a hard time filling the stands with a chance for better attendance.

But why unbalance the playing field with a trip to the Final Four on the line?

Baylor isn’t the first and won’t be the last team to face this challenge, and the Lady Bears may well prevail tonight.

But the NCAA certainly didn’t do them any favors by sending them to a true road game for the right to continue their season.

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