Women's Hoops Place

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No. 1 hosts No. 2 today in college hoops, but the game tips at 5:30 p.m. (ET) Huh?

Yes, the Stanford Cardinal will visit the defending champion UConn Huskies at the XL Center in Hartford this evening, but unless you’re leaving work early or taking the day before Christmas Eve off, it’s going to be hard to see All-Americans Maya Moore, the Huskies’ superb perimeter player, and Jayne Appel, the Cardinal’s dominant center, in action. Both teams are 9-0 and UConn hasn’t lost since the 2008 national semifinal against the Cardinal. The Huskies exacted their revenge in 2009 by chopping down Stanford in the same round.

Don’t get me wrong (which I was in my prediction to take the “way under” in terms of the Penn State-Texas women’s volleyball championship on Dec. 19, which netted 1.10 million watchers, against ESPN2’s November primetime average of 1.07 million),

I realize that women’s sports don’t measure up when it comes to the Nielsens. Indeed through four games of the current season on ESPN2, a quartet of women’s college hoops contests have averaged 254,536 households and 336,195 viewers, gains of 12% and 7%, respectively, over the same point of the 2008-09 season. Meanwhile, men’s college basketball coverage on ESPN has posted increases of 10% in viewers to 1.24 million and 8% among households to 987,000.

But in this case, the ladies’ action is by far the most compelling from national and March Madness perspectives of the four games that ESPN2 will televise today: Mississippi at No. 5 West Virginia at 7:30 p.m.; Illinois at Missouri at 9:30 p.m.; and action from the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at 11:30 p.m.

Of course, none of them are as significant as the ever-important San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl, featuring California versus Utah at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

My point: Why Stanford-UConn game doesn’t deserve to be in the 7:30 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. window? Although it can be argued that the women won’t square off against the bowl game, it’s not exactly fan-friendly scheduling for East Coast workers and more pointedly Stanford supporters on the Left Coast.

Men or women, women or men, Cal-Utah trumps the college roundball action. So why not give the ladies a better chance to be seen?

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