“Extremely tough” to decide seeding for the 2021 NCAA Tournament
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.
“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|
|Big Sky||Idaho State|
|Big South||High Point|
|Big West||UC Davis|
|Conference USA||Middle Tennessee|
|Horizon League||Wright State|
|MEAC||North Carolina A&T|
|Northeast||Mount St. Mary|
|Summit League||South Dakota|
Auto-bid: Utah Valley*
|Florida St.||Atlantic Coast|
|Georgia Tech||Atlantic Coast|
|Iowa St.||Big 12|
|Michigan St.||Big Ten|
|Missouri St.||Missouri Valley|
|North Carolina||Atlantic Coast|
|Oklahoma St.||Big 12|
|South Dakota St.||Summit|
|Virginia Tech||Atlantic Coast|
|Wake Forest||Atlantic Coast|
|West Virginia||Big 12|