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Could The Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Field Expand?

ByAndrew Pistone

2 min read

Could The Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Field Expand?

For many years, both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournament field was set at 64 teams. It was a pretty symmetrical and logical number to arrive at, with 16 teams each playing in four different regions. However, in 2011, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament cutoff increased to 68 teams, with play-in games of sorts scheduled for the first two nights of the big dance. As we’ve eclipsed the ten year anniversary of that decision, it looks like the women’s side might soon get the same extension.

In the middle of October, the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee voted unanimously to advance a proposal to extend the women’s tournament to 68 teams. This momentum comes in the wake of several months of examination of the women’s game, and how it might not be equal to the type of opportunity and facilities their male counterparts receive.

“The women’s basketball oversight committee is proud to continue its leadership role in reviewing many of the recommendations from the gender equity report, and we look forward to implementing this format change to positively impact the championship experience for women’s basketball,” said Lisa Campos, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and athletic director at the University of Texas At San Antonio. Via NCAA.org

Including four more teams will give more schools the chance to experience the thrill of March Madness, but it might not matter much from the standpoint of the tournament as a whole. The last nine NCAA women’s champions have been number one seeds, who have usually defeated other number one seeds in the title game. Because the sport is so top heavy, it’s unlikely that teams in the First Four would find their way into the Final Four.

With that said, anything can happen in March. Before 16 seed UMBC defeated the number one seed University of Virginia in 2018, those matchups were just a formality. All it will take is for one special group of young women to get hot, and teams 65-68 would automatically be taken more seriously year in and year out. There also isn’t a great reason to keep the women’s tournament at 64 programs, when the men have 68, so this advancement(if passed) would pass the common sense test as well.

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