I watched all 80 minutes of basketball played by Iowa State on Saturday- the women in Ames, the men on my telly. The two teams combined for about 10 minutes of entertainment. The rest was hard to watch.
The opponents were to blame. The Defense First, Defense Second, Offense If We Find It school of basketball played by both Kansas State and South Carolina is a bastardization of the sport. It may win games, but it has to suck the joy from the sport for both spectators and player alike. The prevalence of the style in the women's game is the single biggest factor holding the sport back from wider public acceptance. Like hockey, a couple of goons can reduce a free-flowing sport to a brawl.
The reason Iowa State has such a solid following is that when able, they are fun to watch. Too many opponents lace up their sneakers only to start a street fight on the court. But the audience that likes a street fight is going to choose the MMA over women's hoops every time.
The leagues could mandate a change by ordering referees to call fouls, but when a majority of the coaches in a league prefer Brawling over Scoring, no mandate will come. Referees will continue to ignore all but the most egregious fouls, and the sport descends to the level of the most violent and least skilled.
The only thing that will break the Street Fight Defense school of coaching will be sustained success of teams who put offense first. When defensive coaches lose too many games and recruits to offensive coaches they will have no choice but to switch styles.
The switch can't come soon enough.