By R.L. Bynum
The NCAA has dramatically changed how regionals will work in the women’s basketball tournament for the 2023 season. It could mean North Carolina’s potential path to the Final Four would include four games in the Carolinas.
Instead of four regional sites for the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight, there will only be two — at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., and the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Each site will be the host for two regionals.
Each site will play host to regional semifinals games on March 24 and 25 and regional championship games on March 26 and 27, meaning each arena will have games on four consecutive days. Women’s regional play goes from Friday to Monday while regional play in the men’s tournament is from Thursday to Sunday.
Next season’s tournament still will feature 68 teams, with First Four opening-round games on March 15 and 16 at the campuses of the 16 teams that are first- and second-round hosts.
The decisions were made at the summer meetings of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee last week. The chair of the committee is Duke athletics director Nina King.
“The committee spent a significant amount of time in determining the regional playing format and preferred playing location for the First Four games,” King said. “The decision to continue with top 16 sites hosting First Four games was backed by the positive feedback from the schools that participated in those games during the 2022 championship. We feel both decisions provide for the best student-athlete experience.”
Carolina just missed earning a top-16 seed and the right to host first- and second-round games last season and had to play the first two rounds in Tucson, Ariz. Should the Tar Heels host the first two rounds in Carmichael Arena, they could potentially play their first four games leading to the Final Four in the Carolinas.
The Final Four next season will be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas (the home of the Mavericks). The arena will be the site of the Division I, II and III women’s basketball national championship games over two days (April 1–2).
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications