“Extremely tough” to decide seeding for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

Auto-qualifiers || At-large Selections || Downloadable Bracket || Interactive Bracket || NCAA Tournament Contingency and Team Replacement Plan

In a challenging season that came on the heels of the cancelation of last year’s NCAA Tournament, fans will finally get to see some March Madness women’s basketball action. UConn (24-1), Stanford (25-2), South Carolina (22-4), and NC State (20-2) lead the charge as the No. 1 seeds in the 2021 NCAA tournament. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the tournament is set to take place entirely in the San Antonio area and runs from March 21 to April 4.

As die-hard fans peruse the 64-team field, agreeing or disagreeing with the seedings and at-large bids, the chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, Nina King, gave some insight into the bracket soon after it was revealed on Monday night’s selection show: “Seedings are about how teams are playing now.”

The committee had some difficult choices to make with factors such as how many games teams didn’t play due to Covid-19 and how the programs performed after a prolonged pause in the mix.

“It was extremely tough,” King said.

And just over the weekend, the Missouri Valley regular-season champion, Missouri State, pulled out of the league’s tournament in the semifinal round due to a positive test by the opponent (Bradley).  Missouri State, then nationally ranked at No. 17, opting out of the MVC tournament and Bradley beating Drake the next day for the conference title, was an unexpected variable that the committee had to consider.

“It was something we watched very closely once we received word that the Missouri State game was not going to be played,” King said. “But then we looked at Missouri State and their resumé and total body of work and felt they were deserving of an at-large seed. So once we put them in and then once we received the Missouri Valley Conference Champion, we knew that we would have two teams in from the Missouri Valley.”

Bradley is a No. 11 seed in the Hemisfair region and will face No. 6-seeded Texas in the first round. Missouri State is a No. 5 seed in the Alamo Region and will face UC Davis in the first round.

Teams will have until 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 16, to inform the committee if they will participate in the tournament. After Tuesday, any team that drops out will not be replaced, and the opposing team will move on via the no-contest rule. No replacement teams will be introduced into the NCAA championship bracket after the deadline.

Landmark Names for Regions

Since the entire tournament will be in one location, the committee chose to replace the geographic region names with the monikers of San Antonio monuments. The original regions were Albany, NY; Cedar Park, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Spokane, Washington. The renamed regions are Alamo, Hemisfair, River Walk, and Mercado.

The Alamo refers to the historic Spanish mission compound where the Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836. Hemisfair is a park and the site of the 1968 World’s Fair. The River Walk is the city’s iconic and scenic urban waterway in downtown. The Mercado is the city’s famous Historic Market Square of shops and restaurants.

In the bracket, all four top seeds won their league’s conference championship.

The No. 1 seeds in each region:

  • Alamo – Stanford
  • Hemisfair – South Carolina
  • River Walk – UConn
  • Mercado – NC State

UConn Missing Geno

UConn will be without head coach Geno Auriemma who tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. The Hall of Fame coach is in quarantine and can rejoin his team on March 24. He will miss the first two rounds of the tournament. However, with an experienced staff that includes associate head coach Chris Daily, the Huskies should not miss a step in preparation and tournament performance. UConn will face No. 16-seed High Point in the first round.

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer wished Auriemma well and said she hoped that “he’s able to recover very quickly” and be with his team in Texas. She said the situation is a “definite reminder” to everyone.

“I think our whole staff and team, we’ve worked really hard,” she said. “And we want to stay negative through this tournament, And keep playing.”

The first round of the tournament will take place at five different venues, including San Antonio’s Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena at St. Mary’s, the Frank Erwin Center at Texas in Austin, the University Events Center at Texas State) and the UTSA Convocation Center. The second round will be limited to the Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena, and the UTSA Convocation Center. The Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championship will all occur at the Alamodome.

Teams begin arriving on Tuesday. The committee itself has been in San Antonio since last Wednesday, according to King.

“We tested and then got to work on Thursday morning,” she said. “We are also going through daily testing, and as the student-athletes and programs will once, they get here tomorrow. We got locked into that committee room Thursday through today and really had great work with my committee colleagues. The ten of us really spent a lot of time talking through teams, making sure we had everything right for five days.”

2021 Division I Conference Tournament Champions/Auto-Qualifiers

Conference Champion (NCAA Tournament Auto-bid)
America East Stony Brook
American Athletic South Florida
Atlantic 10 VCU
ACC NC State
Big 12 Baylor
Big East UConn
Big Sky Idaho State
Big South High Point
Big Ten Maryland
Big West UC Davis
CAA Drexel
Conference USA Middle Tennessee
Horizon League Wright State
MAAC Marist
MAC Central Michigan
MEAC North Carolina A&T
Missouri Valley Bradley
Mountain West Wyoming
Northeast Mount St. Mary
Ohio Valley Belmont
Pac-12 Stanford
Patriot League Lehigh
SEC South Carolina
Southern Mercer
Southland SFA
SWAC Jackson State
Summit League South Dakota
Sun Belt Troy
West Coast Gonzaga
WAC Cal Baptist
Auto-bid: Utah Valley*

*Cal Baptist won the WAC tournament title but is in a DI transition period and won’t eligible for the NCAA until the 2022-23 season.

At-Large Selections

Team Conference
Alabama Southeastern
Arkansas Southeastern
Arizona Pac-12
BYU West Coast
Florida St. Atlantic Coast
Georgia Southeastern
Georgia Tech Atlantic Coast
Indiana Big Ten
Iowa Big Ten
Iowa St. Big 12
Kentucky Southeastern
Louisville Atlantic Coast
Marquette Big East
Michigan Big Ten
Michigan St. Big Ten
Missouri St. Missouri Valley
Northwestern Big Ten
North Carolina Atlantic Coast
Oklahoma St. Big 12
Oregon Pac-12
Oregon St. Pac-12
Rutgers Big Ten
South Dakota St. Summit
Syracuse Atlantic Coast
Tennessee Southeastern
Texas Big 12
Texas A&M Southeastern
UCF American Athletic
UCLA Pac-12
Virginia Tech Atlantic Coast
Wake Forest Atlantic Coast
Washington St. Pac-12
West Virginia Big 12
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