Another year, another NCAA tournament road game for St. John’s.
It’s almost become a running joke with the Red Storm’s women’s basketball staff.
For the third straight season, coach Kim Barnes Arico and her third-seeded Red Storm may play an opponent on its home court in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I have a stomachache about it,” Barnes Arico said, laughing. “We’ve done it multiple times now. You put yourself in a position to get a great seed and then you get rewarded having to play on someone else’s home court.”
This time the Red Storm will have some company on the road as six of the eight No. 2 and No. 3 seeds may play an opponent on their home court or in their home city in the opening two rounds that begin Saturday.
Putting together the NCAA bracket is one giant jigsaw puzzle. The selection committee tries to make every piece fit using a certain list of procedures and principles.
This year, the group was in a bind because many of the host schools for the opening two rounds were going to be seeded in the lower half of the bracket. Only four of the top 16 teams in the tournament were sites for the first two rounds, leaving many of the higher seeds left to potentially play on opposing floors.
Second-seed Duke could have to play at No. 7 Vanderbilt; No. 2 Kentucky could play at 10th-ranked Iowa State and No. 2 Tennessee could face seventh-seeded DePaul. Those three lower-seeded hosts are a combined 44-5 at home this season.
The three seeds aren’t much better off. Besides St. John’s, Delaware and the nation’s leading scorer, Elena Delle Donne, will have to visit Arkansas-Little Rock in their opener. Miami will have to travel across country to face Gonzaga on its home court in the second round if both teams advance.
What may help the committee in the future is the opening-round sites are selected one year in advance instead of two. Nine of the top 16 seeds this year are hosting next season.