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Sports >  NCAA basketball

NCAA changing format of women’s basketball tournament; Spokane to host one of two super regionals in 2025

Aug. 5, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 5, 2022 at 8:30 p.m.

A large crowd in Spokane Arena watches Stanford play Maryland in a Sweet 16 matchup in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on March 25.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
A large crowd in Spokane Arena watches Stanford play Maryland in a Sweet 16 matchup in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on March 25. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The NCAA women’s basketball regionals will return to Spokane in 2025, bigger and better than ever.

The NCAA on Friday announced sweeping changes to the format of the Division 1 tournament, scrapping the current Sweet 16 format and replacing it with a pair of eight-team super regionals.

The change goes into effect for the upcoming season, with super regionals to be contested in Greenville, South Carolina and at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

However, Spokane is still on the schedule for 2025, meaning that half of the Sweet 16 field will converge on the Arena for one of the biggest collegiate events in local history.

“It’s actually great for us,” said Matt Meyer, director of entertainment for the Arena, First Interstate Center for the Arts and The Podium for the Spokane Public Facilities District.

Spokane was scheduled to host a four-team regional in 2025; now it will be an eight-team affair and sure to be the biggest collection of women’s basketball talent to gather in the Arena.

“We’re going to have more basketball coming to Spokane,” Meyer said.

In addition to hosting first- and second-round men’s NCAA games, the Arena has been a fixture on the women’s side.

Spokane has hosted three regionals in the last eight seasons – in 2015, 2017 and again this year, when fans were able to welcome home Spokane natives Lexie and Lacie Hull as they helped Stanford return to the Final Four.

Meyer said Spokane’s reputation was bolstered by that event after third-party security and planning officials reported to NCAA that the Arena was the best organized of this year’s regionals.

“They told the NCAA that ‘if you’re not coming back to Spokane, you’re crazy,’ ” Meyer said. “We were far and away the best organized.”

Unaffected by Friday’s announcement is the format for first- and second-round games, which will be held on the campuses of teams seeded in the top 16. Those sites also must agree to host a First Four game, following last year’s move to a 68-team format that matches the men’s tournament.

“The committee spent a significant amount of time in determining the regional playing format and preferred playing location for the First Four games,” said Nina King, chair of the committee and vice president/director of athletics at Duke.

“The decision to continue with top 16 sites hosting First Four games was backed by the positive feedback from the schools that participated in those games during the 2022 championship,” King said.

Tickets for the Greenville and Seattle regionals will go on sale to the public on Oct. 20.

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