ESPN unveiled the 64-team NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship field exclusively during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Special Presented by Capital One tonight on ESPN and ESPN3, with continued coverage on ESPNU immediately following the one-hour special. Trey Wingo led the bracket special discussion with analysts Kara Lawson, Carolyn Peck, Doris Burke and Rebecca Lobo, in addition to Jemele Hill during ESPNU’s coverage.
During both hours, ESPN had an exclusive interview with NCAA committee chairman Greg Christopher.
The network tips-off its extensive coverage of all 63 games of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by Capital One – across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPN FULL COURT – beginning Saturday, March 17 and concluding at the NCAA National Championship game Tuesday, April 3 in Denver. In addition, ESPN will feature additional NCAA Championship content across its platforms, including SportsCenter, espnW, ESPN.com, ESPNEWS, WatchESPN and ESPN International.
Most intriguing first-round match-ups: Lawson: Rutgers and Gonzaga – contrast in offensive styles. Peck: West Virginia/Texas – this is going to be a battle down-low, and inside. Lobo: Green Bay/Iowa State – a lot of 3’s are going to go up, team basketball. Hill: Florida Gulf Coast versus the Bonnies – I am calling the upset. Florida Gulf Coast, they make 10.8 3’s per game, I think they can do it.
On higher-seeds playing on lower-seeded home courts:
Lawson: It is the reality of the women’s tournament. The fact that certain teams bid to have those first- and second-round gam
es, and if they make the tournament, regardless of what seed they are, they are going to have the opportunity to host that first- and second-round. It is just the way it is. I feel like we talk about it every year, and it does happen every year, but it is just the way the system is structured and we are not going to get away from it.
Peck: If you are a school that is upset on where you went, and your school didn’t bid on trying to host, you can’t complain. So if you want to host a tournament [game], and if you are one of those schools that might be a higher seed… those programs need to bid on sites.
Lobo: I like that they protected the one seeds. I like that Stanford didn’t have to go to an opponent’s home floor in the second round. I think they would much rather go to Norfolk, fly across the country, and play there, than to play on an opponent’s home floor. I think it is the right way to do it, to protect the one seeds.
Hill: I think the pre-determined sites are always going to create a lot of controversy and discussion. But generally speaking, if you look at the field, the committee got it right… I don’t think you look at this bracket and think this person got robbed, or any mini-controversies. The committee should be very satisfied with that.
NCAA committee chair Greg Christopher: We worked hard to protect those No. 1 seeds, but knowing there was going to be ramifications as you moved throu
On the overall bracket: Selecting the teams was very difficult, those last 10-15 teams, they were really tough to try to decide who distinguished themselves from one another. The bracketing process was particularly difficult this year because some of the host sites, and trying to navigate those and to try and protect the one seeds as best as we could.gh the bracket, and the ramifications were the two and the three lines. We tried to treat those two and three seeds equally, and I think we have done that except for those that are hosting themselves… They have played a lot of great games this year, and a lot of challenging games, and they are going to have them facing them as they move through the bracket this year.
On ranking the No. 1 seeds: We spent a fair amount of time on the No. 1 line. Obviously talked through all four teams, but the committee really had consensus that those four teams were the No.1 seeds. We spent the time early on, it was one of the first things we did. The only other team that was really in the conversation was Maryland.
On Ohio State’s No. 8 seed: The Big Ten had a great season in the sense they have six schools into the bracket…. Keep in mind when we were talking about Ohio State, we probably had somewhere between 10 and 20 other teams on the board from across the country that we were talking about.
This year vs. other years: I do think there is more depth than ever. Each year it seems to get a little bit deeper, and again, the process of picking those final 10-15 schools was really hard this year in trying to determine who had distinguished themselves. The bracketing was a little bit unusual because of the sites we had, and I think that is going to fine-tune itself and get a little bit better as years go ahead. We have compressed the selection for the first- and second-round sites to less than a year, so going forward I think we will be able to have great home sites for the top seeds but also in the sense that we will be able to put fans in the stands to put on a great show for women’s basketball.