January 19, 2021
NCAA Division I WBB committee releases rules, plans for championship
The 64-team tournament bracket will be released on March 15
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We are officially less than two months out from Selection Monday and the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee has released a few updates on its plans for this year’s championship tournament.
Nina King, senior deputy athletics director and chief of staff at Duke and chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, says they are working through the process of adjusting the tournament to fit the needs of a COVID-impacted season while keeping the integrity of the championship intact:
“The committee continues to adjust to the circumstances of the current season and feel that decisions reached in regard to the 2021 championship are in the best interest of the championship while ensuring the health and safety of all concerned. We will continue to protect the integrity of the selection, seeding and bracketing process as we work through any new developments.”
The tournament will take place in March and April and will feature the standard 64-team bracket, which will include automatic qualifiers from all competing Division I conferences (currently 31) and the other remaining bids filled by at-large selections.
COVID-19 is still a looming cloud of uncertainty over sports at all levels, so the committee also announced that for the 2020-21 academic year, it would waive the .500 rule to allow ultimate flexibility for teams. This rule normally requires teams to have overall records of .500 or better to be considered for an at-large selection.
Location and Seeding
The tournament is expected to take place in one location, with the San Antonio region currently being considered. The committee has also decided to remove references to geography in principles for placing teams into the bracket for the 2021 championship only.
This means the 64 participating teams will be moved into the bracket by order of the S-curve using seed order. The curve ensures that the higher-seeded teams are placed into the bracket against the lower-seeded teams.
There will still be an effort via bracketing principles to keep conference teams from meeting until the regional final round.
Travel Party Changes
The committee is allowing a three-person increase in the size of the official team travel party to add additional team support. The travel party includes student-athletes, coaches, primary administrators, managers, sports information directors, etc. Now, the travel party can include 34 individuals, up from 31.
All schools are required to play a minimum of 13 games against other Division I schools during the 2020-21 season to qualify for team selection in the 2021 tournament. The committee also announced, however, that it will be accepting championship eligibility waiver requests, from Feb. 8 through Feb. 26, from schools unable to reach this minimum.
Additionally, schools may count one conference tournament game toward this minimum number of 13 required games. After the Feb. 26 deadline, waives will be considered only if a game scheduled after this date is canceled.
Feb. 26: Conferences must submit their automatic qualifier requirements for the 2021 championship
March 14: Conferences must forward the name of the team representing their conference as the automatic qualifier.
The full 64-team bracket is scheduled to be announced on Monday, March 15 at 7 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN.