Morhardt: It’s Time to Pay Attention to Women’s Basketball


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Women’s basketball celebrates NCAA Tournament berth on Selection Sunday.

Meghann Morhardt, Co-Sports Editor

At a school with as successful a men’s basketball program as Villanova, other sports, especially women’s basketball, can be overshadowed. 

It’s time we start giving the women’s basketball team the attention it deserves and Monday’s Associated Press Poll results should be enough of a reason for Villanova’s students to take notice. 

Following an upset loss at Temple last Friday, the men’s team dropped from No.16 to unranked, falling out of the Top-25 for the first time since February 2019. On the other hand, the women, coming off an upset over No. 24 Princeton on Friday, climbed their way into the Top-25 for the first time since 2018, stealing the Tigers’ previous 24th spot. 

Now, this is not meant to take away from the success and history of the men’s program. The three national championships and six Final Four appearances speak for themselves, and no one is asking that any attention be taken away from them. It’s just time for that same energy to be invested into the women’s team.

Many students on Villanova’s campus have likely never been to a women’s basketball game at The Finneran Pavilion, and the justification is always that “no one goes” or that the “women’s team just isn’t that good.” But both of these are excuses, not reasons. 

The first is easily avoided simply by more fans attending games. If everyone assumes that nobody else goes, then no one will ever go. It becomes a never-ending cycle that prevents the popularity of Villanova women’s basketball from growing. 

The second excuse is just not true. Take last year for example. The two teams’ seasons were more similar than many realize. Both had seven regular season losses. Both finished second in the Big East regular season. Both had a Big East Player of the Year. Both ended the season with an NCAA Tournament appearance, and at least one win. But still, the women were overlooked. 

The overarching issue is the double-standard at hand, and it extends beyond just Villanova. 

As a rule, women’s basketball programs are overshadowed by their male counterparts. There are some exceptions, at schools like UConn where the women’s team is more decorated than the men’s, but this is rare. 

Women’s programs receive less funding, have lower attendance, less games televised on national networks and are generally under-appreciated. 

To put this into perspective, the Villanova men’s team will have every game televised this year, while the women are only slated to have five of their 31 games on national TV. With one of the top players in the nation on its roster in Maddy Siegrist, Villanova’s games should be a higher priority. 

These issues on a national scale are obviously not things that we as students have the power to fix, but we can do something about the double standard on our campus, starting with supporting both teams through every up and down. 

In February of 2019, the men fell out of the rankings after multiple Big East losses. But, this didn’t change the support or attendance at games. In fact The Finn was sold out for the first home game after the AP Poll was announced. 

When it comes to the women’s team, people act as if they first need to prove themselves before they are worthy of support. Just because they haven’t won a national championship, which only 15 women’s programs have accomplished in the NCAA Tournament’s 40 years, doesn’t mean they deserve less recognition. 

Last year, the Finn reached just over 16% capacity on average for women’s games, while the men sold out all but two of their home games at the Finn. 

The attendance saw occasional increases, but never more than the 44% for the senior night game against DePaul in February, and this was 20% higher than the second most attended game. 

When the team shocked the college basketball world with a win on the road against No.8 UConn in February, the first win of the sort since 1993, there was hope that the recognition and support would increase. But a disappointing 1,405 people showed up for the team’s Friday night game two days later. 

There are ways that the university can work to combat this attendance disparity, with one option being a student lottery points incentive for all women’s games. Quite frankly, this bribe should not be necessary. The recent success and national recognition should be enough. But if that is what it takes to get the students in the door so that they may become invested, then so be it. 

Just as everyone knew the name Collin Gillespie last year, everyone should know Maddy Siegrist’s name. Siegrist is the reigning Big East Player of the Year and arguably the best athlete on campus. 

Siegrist finished the season ranked second in the nation at 25.9 points per game and broke the 20-year-old Big East scoring record, averaging 27.9 points in conference contests. 

After scoring 684 points last season, despite missing six games, Siegrist is on pace to become Villanova’s all time leading scorer, man or woman. That spot is currently held by a woman. Shelly Pennefather (‘87) scored 2,403 points in her career, 165 more than the men’s leader, Kerry Kittles. 

Siegrist is already off to a hot start this season, averaging 26.5 points and 13 rebounds to lead the team to a 2-0 start, which has carried it into the 24th spot on the AP Poll. The ‘Cats had high preseason expectations, but a ranking in the first week shows that they are well on their way to exceeding those. 

“I don’t think we will be a great surprise this year, with Maddy leading the way,” head coach Denise Dillon said in October. “I would say nationally being known as a team who’s consistent with what we’re doing on both ends of the floor and getting the result because of it.”

The Wildcats were picked to finish third in the Big East in the 2022-23 Preseason Coaches Poll. It is yet another thing they have in common with the men, who were also picked third. 

While the preseason poll holds some significance, the women proved last year that they are not always an accurate prediction of the season to come, as they finished second after originally being picked fifth. 

Led by Siegrist, the Wildcats are once again ready to prove that they are capable of competing at a national level. 

“I want to go as far as we can,” Siegrist said. “I think this year’s gonna be really special and I’m excited to be part of it.”

Now is the time to get on board and support the women’s team. We can’t wait until they pull off another upset like UConn, or for Siegrist to break the record. With the team already growing on the national scale, imagine what could happen if it had a full strength Nova Nation behind it.