For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the Gonzaga women and Spokane a chance at hosting postseason games, the NCAA all but confirmed Tuesday.
Instead, the Arena will sit empty instead of hosting a regional event, and the Zags will likely travel to San Antonio, along with 63 other teams, for a single-site tournament.
While it hasn’t formally committed to playing the tournament at a single site, the NCAA announced Tuesday that it will follow the men’s example and seed and bracket all 64 teams without consideration for travel requirements.
A final decision is soon, most likely with San Antonio – the Final Four site this year – hosting the entire tournament.
“The committee continues to adjust to the circumstances of the current season and feel that decisions reached in regard to the 2021 championship are in the best interest of the championship while ensuring the health and safety of all concerned,” Nina King, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, said in a statement announcing the changes.
“We will continue to protect the integrity of the selection, seeding and bracketing process as we work through any new developments,” King said.
The NCAA also announced tentative dates for the women’s tournament: selection Monday on March 15; first- and second-round games the following weekend; regionals on March 27-30; and the Final Four in the first weekend of April.
The NCAA announced last month that the men’s tournament will be held in Indianapolis, but hasn’t announced a final decision on the women’s tournament.
The top four teams will be No. 1 seeds in each of the regions and the bracket will be created using the selection committee’s ranking of the teams from 1-64, rather than the previous practice of adjusting matchups to avoid longer travel requirements.
Games between teams from the same conference still won’t be allowed until the Sweet 16 round.
The first two rounds of the women’s tournament typically take place on campus sites of the top four teams in each of the four regions.
The Spokane Veterans Memorial had been scheduled to host a regional this year; that won’t happen. Likewise, Gonzaga will have no chance to host games.
Last year, the GU women were 28-3 overall and projected to host first- and second-round games at the Kennel, but those plans were wiped out with the cancellation of the entire tournament.
Since then, the Gonzaga women have been “controlling what we can control,” coach Lisa Fortier said.
They’re doing that quite well. Going into Saturday’s home game against BYU, the Zags are 12-2 overall and 7-0 in the West.
Ranked 20th this week in The Associated Press poll, the Zags are 18th in the NCAA’s all-important NET rankings.
Charlie Crème, the bracketologist at ESPN, has GU as a No. 5 seed and facing No. 12 seed Milwaukee, presumably in the greater San Antonio area.
It’s also presumed that the Zags could work their way up to a No. 4 seed between now and March.
That’s not the same as playing in the Kennel, but as GU’s Jill Townsend said recently, “We’re just happy to be playing.”
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