Women's college basketball will crown a champion on Sunday, capping what has been a fascinating tournament that highlighted the game's continued evolution while celebrating the stars that drive the sport.

It's unfortunate that the tournament also has included racism, misogyny and more evidence that the playing field continues to be unequal to the men's game.

Once the women's tournament reached the second and third rounds, the level of play was delightful. The star power was evident and the entertainment value sky high. Iowa's Caitlin Clark squared off against LSU's Angel Reese in the Elite Eight and then UConn's Paige Bueckers, the former Hopkins star. Undefeated South Carolina — featuring another Minnesotan, freshman guard Tessa Johnson of St. Michael-Albertville — is pushing for its second title in three seasons. And USC's JuJu Watkins served notice that she's the next big thing in the game.

Friday's semifinal between Iowa and UConn was a fierce battle in which Iowa trailed throughout before pulling off a 71-69 victory. In defeat, UConn showed its class by not pointing to a dubious late call against them as the reason the Huskies lost.

It's easier to name the top players in women's college basketball than the top men's players.

The resale value of a ticket to the women's Final Four topped $2,000, nearly double the cost of a ticket to a men's game. The women's event is being held in a 19,000-seat area in Cleveland while the men's Final Four is at the 64,000-seat stadium in Glendale, Ariz., but the prices are still evidence of the increased interest in the game.

Monday's matchup between defending champions LSU and Iowa attracted 12.3 million viewers, more than all but one of last year's NBA Finals games. Friday's UConn-Iowa game topped that at 14.2 million.

So many good things are happening in women's basketball. Yet so many terrible things are happening to its players.

On March 21, the Utah team was walking to a restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, when a motorist yelled racial slurs at the players. Following dinner, they were returning to the team hotel when the driver returned with others and hurled more slurs. It forced Utah to move to a hotel in Spokane, Wash., where the team's games were being played. A police investigation confirmed that slurs were clearly audible on recordings of the area.

In other unflattering moments, a referee had to be removed from a first-round game between Chattanooga and N.C. State at halftime when it was discovered that she earned her masters degree from Chattanooga. Five games were played last weekend in Portland, Ore., on a court in which one of the three-point lines was 9 inches shorter than regulation.

Doesn't the women's game deserve the same attention to detail as the men's game? This brings back memories of the 2021 bubble games, in which women's teams did not have the same amenities as the men's teams. This is a sport in which the women's tournament wasn't allowed to be called "March Madness" until 2022.

Then there was the coverage of the UCLA-LSU game on March 30. The Los Angeles Times ran a column that portrayed UCLA as America's sweethearts while the LSU players were "basketball villains" and "dirty debutantes." Reese, LSU's star player, was chastised for her trash talking. Guess what? In sports, there is trash talking, women as well as men. The Times story mentioned how Reese taunted Clark during a tournament game last year. Nothing about Clark's behavior.

A few weeks before that, I sat on press row at the Big Ten tournament championship game, held at Target Center, and watched Clark talk trash — and complain to officials even more. During a first-round game against Holy Cross two weeks ago, Clark's father yelled from the stands for her to quit complaining.

Only the behavior of the best player on the team of so-called villains was singled out. Reese is Black. Clark is white. When Black readers see Reese singled out, they see bias. The Times column went down racist and sexist paths that, unfortunately, continue to exist.

The columnist wrote an apology. The Times edited the offensive language from the story. The games, thank heavens, continued.

We all should be excited about the championship of a tournament that has delivered time and time again. We also should be embarrassed, ashamed and chagrined that while this tournament brought out the best in sports, it also revealed a lack of equality and the worst in society. We need to be better.