KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The NCAA's drive to boost attendance for its women's tournament could force three No. 1 seeds to go on the road and beat lower-seeded teams on their home floor to advance.
Coaches criticized the NCAA's decision last summer to allow schools to host regionals, saying it could give teams an unfair advantage Their concerns were realized Monday night with the release of the NCAA tournament pairings.
Though the NCAA already has announced it's going back to neutral regional sites starting in 2015, teams must live with the format this year.
Carolayne Henry, chair of the Division I women's basketball committee, said. "We knew there was a possibility this could happen" when the NCAA decided to have schools host regionals this year.
Defending national champion Connecticut could meet No. 4 seed Nebraska at Lincoln in a regional semifinal. Tennessee, the No. 1 seed in the Louisville Regional, might end up facing Louisville in the regional final. South Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the Stanford Regional, may have to beat Stanford at Maples Pavilion with a Final Four berth at stake.
"That's the way they decided to do it this year, to have the regionals at home sites of schools, so we've got to go with it," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We've been on the other end. We've hosted regionals (in the past) and won. ... It's a big factor. It's a big plus for you."
Louisville, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Stanford were chosen in October as host sites. Notre Dame was the only team from that group to earn a No. 1 seed. Tennessee didn't bid to host a regional because of a scheduling conflict at Thompson-Boling Arena. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said his school didn't bid because he didn't like the concept of having schools host regionals.
"I don't believe in it," Auriemma said. "I don't think it's fair and I told our administration, 'We're passing on it. I don't want to do it.' So we didn't."
Louisville coach Jeff Walz also doesn't like the idea of host sites for the regional rounds. Walz cited Louisville's 82-81 upset of top-ranked Baylor in last year's Oklahoma City Regional semifinal as evidence.
"I use us as an example," Walz said. "If we played Baylor at Baylor last year, I'm not sure we win that game ... I'm a big proponent of playing regionals on neutral floors and I'm excited that we're going to back to."
The decision to have schools host regionals was made in an effort to draw bigger crowds.
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