Justin Jackson: Men's college hoops has much more to worry about than the rise of women's basketball

Apr. 11—MORGANTOWN — If we are meant to believe that college athletics are a business, then there are more than enough signs now that part of that business is failing.

That being the sport of men's basketball.

Not basketball as a whole, because you likely saw the news from over the weekend on the TV viewers that were drawn to the women's championship game versus the number of eyes that watched the men's title game.

The women's game saw Caitlin Clark and Iowa matched up against undefeated South Carolina. It drew an average of 18.9 million viewers with a peak of 23 million.

The men's game, which saw UConn beat Purdue for its second-straight championship, drew an average of 14.8 million.

If that doesn't scare the hell out of anyone whose livelihood is tied to the men's game, it very well should.

There are the obvious arguments that one side would have you believe this was just a one-off.

The Clark effect is first. The curiosity at a national level to watch a generational player like her offered more intrigue than what the men provided.

The women's game tipped off at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday, while the men's game tipped off at 9:30 p.m. on a Monday.

Half of the East Coast outside of New England was asleep during the men's game by halftime, because it was so late in the evening.

All of that is true, but the opinion here is the men's game has so much more lending to its demise than just the emergence of popularity in the women's game.

To make this point, we look at UConn coach Dan Hurley's reference after the title game to building a dynasty in Storrs, Conn.

"Now you're thinking in your brain, as I'm looking at the locker room, about the chance to do it three times, like a dynasty in modern times, " Hurley said. "I mean, that's what I'm thinking about."

UConn became the first team since Florida in 2006-07 to repeat as champs. Before that, Duke went back-to-back in 1991-92.

Those Florida teams and those Duke teams were rock stars in their time.

Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley at Duke were either hated or beloved, but they were known around the country, and still are.

Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and those Gators continue to make Billy Donovan one of the most sought-after coaches for high-profile college jobs, even though he hasn't coached in college since 2015.

Without looking, how many starters can you name from this UConn team ?

And, no, saying the big, tall white kid is not the same as actually knowing who Donovan Clingan is.

The national interest in the men's game is deteriorating, not because the women's game is gaining in popularity.

The men's game is deteriorating because it has an identity problem.

It's been 21 years now that the one-and-done rule has been in place, which means 21 years of athletes such as Kevin Durant, John Wall, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis coming and going from the college game in the blink of an eye.

It's been 13 years since the demise of the old Big East, which was once a more-feared collection of teams than the American League East.

Yeah, you can also throw in the six years that the transfer portal has been open, except female players change schools with about the same frequency as male players do.

The major difference between the men's and women's game right now is NBA teams can draft players after one season of college, while the WNBA has an age limit of 22 before players can be selected.

Clark could have transferred to four different schools while in college—it would not have hurt her popularity one bit.

She became the rival. She became the hero, and that would have never happened if she could have gone pro after her freshman season.

The rivalries in the men's game are forced to be team-oriented rather than built around the popularity of an athlete.

That's a disaster. Why ? Because conference realignment has taken away half of them. The ones still with a pulse are simply regionally interesting.

No one in Pittsburgh cares about UCLA against USC any more than someone in Los Angeles gives a hoot about WVU and Pitt.

Very few in Morgantown even knew Jesse Edwards was the ACC's second-leading rebounder until he entered the portal and was looking at the Mountaineers.

Suddenly, everyone in the state showed interest then, but not a second before.

Who led the nation in rebounding this season ? If you answered Zach Edey, you'd be wrong.

And if you think Hurley and UConn are building some sort of dynasty, I'm not going to argue the point. Except to simply ask can it really be a dynasty if no one outside of New England cares enough to watch it ?

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