November 18, 2021
NCAA announces expansion of the Division I Women’s Championship to 68 teams, changes selection show date
The four teams seeded 65 through 68 and the last four at-large teams will play in a series of “First Four” matchups
Starting in 2022, the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket will expand from 64 to 68 teams, to match the men’s tournament. And will move the selection show, previously called “Selection Monday,” to Sunday, March 13, the same day as the men’s selection show.
The four teams seeded 65 through 68 and the last four at-large teams will play in a series of “First Four” matchups. In the men’s tournament, those games pit two pairs of 16 seeds and two pairs of 11 seeds against one another before the official start of the first round.
In 2022, the four games will take place at four of the campuses of the top 16 seeds. And teams that advance will then play in the first round at the same location. In 2023 and going forward, the games will be played at a neutral site.
This decision, along with the decision to move the selection show to the same day as the men’s selection show, comes after an external gender equity review of NCAA championships conducted by Kaplan Hecker & Fink.
The review came after female athletes, most notably Oregon’s Sedona Prince, in the 2021 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship shared videos and photos of the different resources in their respective bubbles on social media. That review found that the NCAA prioritized the men’s basketball tournament over all else. And spent more money on male athletes than female athletes on average. The firm made recommendations for the NCAA to correct those errors, including allowing the women’s tournament to use the “March Madness” branding.
The Kaplan report made this recommendation because they saw, “no justification for the disparity in tournament participation opportunities.”
The women’s selection show will air on ESPN on the same day as the men’s basketball “Selection Sunday” special. Previously, the special was the day after, on Monday, to give the women’s tournament its own day and increase media attention.
The move to Sunday aims to give an equal spotlight to both the men’s and women’s tournaments.