NCAA announces plan for holding Division I women's basketball tournament

Erick Smith

The NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament will take place at the usual time on the calendar with some significant alternations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

An announcement Tuesday by the NCAA confirmed Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 15 and games would be played in March and April. However, there will be a  different execution of the postseason event that determines the 2020-21 season's national champion.

All 64 teams in the field are expected to play at a single location to be determined with San Antonio considered the front-runner. Because the one-site model means the removal of geographic regions, seeding will be done by an S-curve mode, like the men's tournament this year. The top four teams will be No. 1 seeds in each of the regions and then the bracket will be created using the selection committee's ranking of the teams from 1-64, rather than the previous practice of adjusting matchups to avoid longer travel requirements. Games between teams from the same conference still won't be allowed until the Sweet 16 round.

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The first two rounds of the women's tournament typically take place on campus sites of the top four teams in each of the four regions. 

There are 31 automatic berths in the field for conference champions. Should any conference not have a champion, the spot will be filled by an at-large team. Leagues must submit their criteria for determining its champion by Feb. 26.

Given the adjustments caused by the pandemic to non-conference schedules, teams finishing with a losing record will be eligible for selection as an at-large team.

“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,” Nina King, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, said in a statement announcing the changes. “We will continue to protect the integrity of the selection, seeding and bracketing process as we work through any new developments.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @easmith