UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma has long been a proponent of improving the sport. He is a former president of the WBCA and a co-chair of the Playing Rules and Officiating group. Most recently, he was among a 35-person group that attended the White Paper Summit in Indianapolis.
However, the fact that teams will have the ability to host regionals in the 2014 NCAA tournament does not sit well with Auriemma. Louisville, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Stanford have been selected to serve as host sites for the regionals this season, meaning that the defending national champion Huskies could have to win a true road game in order to advance to the Final Four.
“I think we’re going backwards if we stay on home courts on campus for regionals,’’ Auriemma said. “We’re going back in time to where you can buy your way to the Final Four. The schools that have the most money, put the most money up, they bid, they win the bid, and they go to the Final Four. That’s the way it used to be done and that’s why the Final Four was exclusive to certain teams. I thought we were past that. So I’m disappointed it is where it is right now, but I’m confident this will be the only year we do that.’’
UConn has played just one true road game during its extensive NCAA tournament history (108 games), a 75-47 loss at Vanderbilt in the second round in 1992. The Huskies have had the opportunity to compete in a regional in the area five times, including last year in Bridgeport and 2012 in Kingston, R.I., advancing to the Final Four four times. UConn’s only loss was to Duke in overtime in the 2006 Bridgeport regional final.
UConn will host NCAA first- and second-round games this season. However, it did not submit a bid to host a regional because it does not agree with the concept.
“We’ve been to 14 Final Fours,’’ Auriemma said. “How many did we get to from outside the area? Is having it in Bridgeport the same as having it in Storrs? No. We did lose in Bridgeport. You know why? We didn’t have the better team. The better team beat us. It’s like when we lost Big East tournaments in Storrs. Why? We didn’t have the better team. I can’t fix what was. In order to go forwards, we shouldn’t go backwards.’’
It appears that this will indeed be the only season where a school will host a regional. It was agreed upon at the White Paper Summit that Super Regionals at two host sites, consisting of eight teams per site instead of four regional sites with four teams each, would be created. The Super Regionals and the Final Four would be hosted at the same locations for multiple years on a rotating basis.
While Walz is pleased to be hosting a regional at the KFC Yum Center, he said that he also is not on-board with the concept of teams hosting a regional.
“It’s not something I’m really excited about,’’ Walz said. “But you have to play within the context of what they’re doing right now and that is having schools host regionals. We felt we draw a real good crowd. Our crowd is not just Louisville fans but they’re basketball fans. We put a bid in and we were fortunate to get one. It won’t surprise me if we go back to where we’re on neutral floors for regionals because I think that’s where we eventually want to get to. You want to go a neutral floor and play for a chance to go to a Final Four. For this year we’ll see what happens and we’ll see what happens in years to come. This is what we have and I think we have a great venue.’’