Now that the NCAA college basketball games have come to a close, we can review the top three takeaways from the series. These include double standards and racism still being heavily prevalent, number one seeds failing to make the championship, and an underdog team making a first appearance in the championship game.
First of all, let’s cover one of the biggest topics being talked about in the media right now. In the women’s championship game, Louisiana State University took on the University of Iowa. During the game, LSU’s Angel Reese made a hand gesture in reference to John Cena’s “You can’t see me.” Despite the gesture being one that many players use, Reese’s use of it ended up unleashing outrage from viewers across the country. The cherry on top of it all though? Cailtin Clark, Reese’s opponent in the final game, had made the same hand movement in a game against Louisville and received no backlash.
Not only does this seem to be a double standard for a women’s sports team, but it is also a prominent display of racism within the sport. Angel Reese is a black woman and Caitlin Clark is white. So, when Clark does this gesture, it isn’t controversial in the slightest, but when Reese does it, it’s a disgrace to the NCAA. In a recent Sports Girls Club blog, “Disrespect or Double Standard”, writer Eren Exum states, “When Clark trash talks or taunts opponents, she is called ‘swaggy,’ but when Reese does it, she is ‘unsportsmanlike’... among other words that were used to describe her. So now, instead of being able to discuss how amazing this matchup was for women’s sports, we are having yet another discussion about race.” Which remains true, once again our country fails to note the amazing game at hand, and instead focuses on a normalized action made by a woman of color.
The 2023 NCAA Men’s championship game marked history in two different ways, the first being about number one seeds. This year’s game was one of few to not have a number one seeded team. UConn went into the final at number four and San Diego State fell right behind in fifth. There have only been three other years in which a Final Four did not have a number one seed, those years were 1980, 2006, and 2011. The last five championship games have had a winner that held the highest seed. The most recent winner who took home the title and wasn't at the very top was Villanova; this happened in 2016 when the team was ranked at number two.
Another big occurrence that happened this year was an underdog rising to the top. As mentioned before, San Diego State was the number five seed, which was impressive since they were ranked 19th in the AP preseason poll. This was the first time that the California based school had taken the Final Four court, the farthest they had ever made it was to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011 and 2014. The team has a limited number of wins with 11 for the regular season conference and nine for the conference tournament. San Diego State was a powerhouse of a team this year and proved that they have the skills to earn a national championship. The Aztecs only managed to lose by 17 points to the UConn Huskies in the final game, which says a lot about the future of the team.
Despite the positives and negatives that have come from the championship games, it is apparent that many changes are being made when it comes to the NCAA. Underdog teams rising above the challenge is one of those changes, but we must also acknowledge the changes that still need to be made. If men are allowed to make an intimidating hand gesture, then women, especially women of color, should be allowed to as well. If men point at their ring finger to imitate where a championship ring should go, then women should be allowed to as well.When men are intimidating it is seen as a power move and sign of their talents. When a woman does the same thing, it is seen as unsportsmanlike. It’s 2023, these double standards should be put to rest.