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NCAA Releases Plans for DI Women’s Basketball Tourney

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The NCAA has announced more planning details for the 2021 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.

The Division I Women’s Basketball Committee reiterated this week that a traditional 64-team championship bracket will be in play for the 2021 championship taking place in March and April, with the bracket including automatic qualifiers from all competing Division I conferences, which is currently 31, and the other remaining bids filled by at-large selections. As automatic qualifiers decrease, the committee will increase the number of at-large allocations in order to maintain a 64-team bracket.

To provide ultimate flexibility for teams due to COVID-19, the committee also announced that for the 2020-21 academic year, it would waive the .500 rule, which normally requires teams to have overall won-lost records of .500 or better to be considered for an at-large selection. This follows the NCAA Competition Oversight Committee recommendation for all fall and winter sports.

With the expected move of the entire championship to one geographic area and the San Antonio region currently under consideration, the committee also decided to remove references to geography in principles for placing teams into the bracket for the 2021 championship only. With that, the 64 teams participating in the 2021 championship will continue to be moved into the bracket by order of the S-curve using seed order. The S-curve ensures that the higher-seeded teams are placed into the bracket against the lower-seeded teams. The committee will still adhere to the bracketing principles that attempt to keep conference teams from meeting until the regional final round.

In a move to add additional team support, the committee also allowed for a three-person increase in the size of the official team travel party (student-athletes, coaches, primary administrator, managers, sports information directors, etc.) for championship participating institutions, pushing the travel party size from 31 to 34 individuals.

“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,” said Nina King, senior deputy athletics director and chief of staff at Duke and chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee. “We will continue to protect the integrity of the selection, seeding and bracketing process as we work through any new developments.” 

The 64-team bracket for the 2021 championship is scheduled to be announced at 7 p.m. Eastern time Monday, March 15, on ESPN.

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