KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The NCAA's drive to boost attendance for its
women's tournament could force three No. 1 seeds to go on the road and
beat lower-seeded teams on their home floor to advance.
Coaches criticized the NCAA's decision last summer to allow schools
to host regionals, saying it could give teams an unfair advantage Their
concerns were realized Monday night with the release of the NCAA
Though the NCAA already has announced it's going back to neutral
regional sites starting in 2015, teams must live with the format this
Carolayne Henry, chair of the Division I women's basketball
committee, said. "We knew there was a possibility this could happen"
when the NCAA decided to have schools host regionals this year.
Defending national champion Connecticut could meet No. 4 seed
Nebraska at Lincoln in a regional semifinal. Tennessee, the No. 1 seed
in the Louisville Regional, might end up facing Louisville in the
regional final. South Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Stanford Regional,
may have to beat Stanford at Maples Pavilion with a Final Four berth at
"That's the way they decided to do it this year, to have the
regionals at home sites of schools, so we've got to go with it,"
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We've been on the other end. We've
hosted regionals (in the past) and won. ... It's a big factor. It's a
big plus for you."
Louisville, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Stanford were chosen in October
as host sites. Notre Dame was the only team from that group to earn a
No. 1 seed. Tennessee didn't bid to host a regional because of a
scheduling conflict at Thompson-Boling Arena. Connecticut coach Geno
Auriemma said his school didn't bid because he didn't like the concept
of having schools host regionals.
"I don't believe in it," Auriemma said. "I don't think it's fair and I
told our administration, 'We're passing on it. I don't want to do it.'
So we didn't."
Louisville coach Jeff Walz also doesn't like the idea of host sites
for the regional rounds. Walz cited Louisville's 82-81 upset of
top-ranked Baylor in last year's Oklahoma City Regional semifinal as
"I use us as an example," Walz said. "If we played Baylor at Baylor
last year, I'm not sure we win that game ... I'm a big proponent of
playing regionals on neutral floors and I'm excited that we're going to
The decision to have schools host regionals was made in an effort to draw bigger crowds.
Last season, the NCAA posted an average attendance of 5,883 for all
tournament games, a 21-percent increase over 2012. But the tournament
had posted average attendances of at least 6,400 every year from
The average attendance for regional rounds last year was 7,100, a
38-percent increase over 2012 but a far cry from 10 to 15 years ago.
Average attendance in the regional rounds had been over 8,000 five times
in a seven-year stretch from 1998-2004.
"I think home courts are a real part of the women's tournament as
opposed to the men's tournament," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said.
But the move creates some potentially odd scenarios.
Connecticut would have to beat Nebraska on the Cornhuskers' home
floor in the regional semifinals if both teams win their first two
tournament games. If the fourth-seeded Huskers get to a regional final,
they could host No. 2 seed Duke or No. 3 seed Texas A&M.
Louisville, the No. 3 seed in its own regional, could end up hosting
No. 2 seed West Virginia in a regional semifinal and top seed Tennessee
in a regional championship.
Next year, the regionals will be back at neutral sites.
Auriemma has one idea for helping those neutral sites draw big crowds.
"We do have to find, I think, four cities that are hotbeds or
potentially, for women's basketball and we've got to give them an
opportunity to host the regionals, and give it to them for a few years
at a time, instead of just a one-shot deal," Auriemma said.
Although the NCAA still plans to have schools serve as host sites for
the first two rounds of the tournament next year, those schools won't
be determined before the season. The schools chosen as the top 16 seeds
for the tournament will host first- and second-round games.
"There will be no drama about where you'll be sent," Notre Dame coach
Muffet McGraw said. "Then there will be neutral sites for the
regionals. That's the way to do it. It's too hard for the committee to
have to piece it together and move people around because of whose
hosting and who's not hosting. I think it will make their job so much
AP reporters Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs,
Conn., and sports writers Doug Feinberg in New York, Pete Iacobelli in
Columbia, S.C., and Janie McCauley in Stanford, Calif., contributed to