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Knudson: Gender Inequity


By Mark Knudson, The Mtn. Insider
February 23, 2011

Things really do run in cycles. History has shown us countless examples of that, especially in sports.

It wasn’t that long ago that Becky Hammon and Katie Cronin were leading the CSU women’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 of the 1999 NCAA Tournament. It was even more recently that Elaine Elliott was coaching the Utah Lady Utes into the 2006 Elite Eight before an OT loss to eventual national champ Maryland ended their season.

And it was the following season, in 2007, when the Wyoming Cowgirls hoop team won the WNIT.

It wasn’t that long ago. It just seems like a long time ago.

It’s fair to say that in 2011 we are currently in a bit of a down cycle in Mountain West women’s hoops, especially when you see the unprecedented heights being enjoyed on the men’s side. Having two men’s teams in the Top Ten only magnifies the fact that no women’s team is currently ranked.

Not that there aren’t good teams and good players on the women’s side this season; there just aren’t as many at the present as we’ve seen in past years. Much of that is due to youth and some you’d just chalk up to the ol’ “things go in cycles” theory.  

A look at one of the pseudo RPI rankings backs this up. The highest RPI for a MWC women’s team belongs to TCU, currently ranked No. 66. BYU follows at No. 67, Wyoming at No. 71. Everyone else is in triple digits.

What these rankings mean is that it will be something of a shock if the MWC gets more than its lone automatic qualifying league champion into this year’s NCAA tournament. This season, it would appear that the MWC is probably a one-bid league on the women’s side.

The positive to this is that we’re bound to see some fierce battles down the stretch between TCU, BYU and Wyoming for that coveted bid. The Cougars lead the league race and appear to have the inside track to the top seed in the Conference tourney. With only one loss in league play, BYU would have to collapse to not finish first. But the Lady Frogs are also a cinch to win 20-plus games after beating Utah for win number 19 Tuesday night.

Senior Helena Sverrisdottir might be the Jimmer Fredette of the ladies side.

TCU and BYU have split the two games so far and will probably meet again in Las Vegas to see who goes to the Big Dance, although Wyoming is nipping at the heels of the front runners and will also have to be dealt with come tournament time.

As for the future, we know Joe Legurski at Wyoming will have that program continuing to get better and better. Same goes for Jeff Mittie at TCU. You have to believe that having a men’s program that is soaring at San Diego State will lift the Aztecs women’s program as well.

Kristen Holt has a young and promising squad at Colorado State and so does legendary coach Don Flanagan at New Mexico. Flanagan has enjoyed unprecedented success at UNM, winning more than 335 games and going to 13 straight post season tournaments prior to this season. The very young Lobos just aren’t quite up to those standards this year but who knows. They could be back as soon as next season.

Rest assured that the next Becky Hammon is lurking somewhere in MWC country. We’ll see her soon. 

View all of Mark Knudson's blog entries HERE.

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