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The NCAA Is Leaving Money On The Table

First, we look at how the women’s NCAA Tournament is shaping up. There have been some amazingly close games — Texas A&M inched past Troy with some questionable refereeing — and an upset that took the FiveThirtyEight Excitement Index all the way to 11 as Wright State beat Arkansas. But unfortunately, the NCAA has been getting in its own way and making the story of this year’s women’s tournament more about a series of missteps, to put it charitably, and notable discrepancies in how the organization is treating its male and female athletes. The lack of proper weight facilities and dismal swag bags are bad enough, but the fact that NCAA refuses to put much honest effort into promoting the women’s games is what’s really egregious. It’s not as though it would be difficult for them to make photos and press conference transcripts available in the first two rounds. It’s also a little stunning that this is the first year all the women’s games are being nationally televised. Yes, the women’s tournament doesn’t bring in as much money as the men’s, but that’s a marketing problem to solve, not some immutable fact of nature.  

Next, we turn to the men’s tournament and the historically wild upsets this year. Whether because of the upheaval caused by COVID-19, some questionable seeding decisions or the fact that no one seemed to notice that the PAC-12 was really good this year, a full fourth of the Sweet 16 are double-digit seeds. While No. 15 Oral Roberts certainly has made the most headlines and is built to be disruptive — a team that hit its threes and free throws usually is — the most impressive underdog is probably Loyola of Chicago, which put on a clinic as it dispensed with top-seeded Illinois. Perpetual 11-seed Syracuse, however, may be the team best equipped to make a deeper run than the Sweet 16, with coach Jim Boeheim on awfully familiar ground. As long as Houston doesn’t do any preparation to play against a zone, the Orange have it in the bag.  

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil looks at one incredible softball game full of records: a no-hitter between Texas Tech and Tarleton State with not one, not two, but three grand slams that was mercy-ruled in the fifth inning. We can’t think of any other ballgames with as many superlatives packed in, but it’s amazing every time even one of those events happens.  

What we’re looking at this week: 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.