NCAA Tournament

Are the first two rounds of the Women’s Tourney fixed by the NCAA? How are the host cities selected?

Podolsky

Unlike the men’s magical NCAA tournament, the women’s event seems nothing more than a fixed lottery. Home sites for the first two rounds are actually sold to the highest bidder, and not assigned randomly years in advance like the men’s event.

That’s right, for a minimum of $6,500 for the first round and $7,500 for the second, teams like Iowa, LSU, USC and UConn can guarantee their teams home courts and frenzied fans backing them. And all 16 teams that were awarded host sites won their first round games. Not shocking at all, and yet there wasn’t a word about it from any of the broadcast teams on ESPN all weekend.

By choosing Iowa City and Baton Rouge as home sites, the NCAA was trying to guarantee that last year’s finalists, LSU and Iowa, would meet again, but much earlier, ensuring a huge TV rating.

But there were other injustices.

How do you think Ole Miss felt about having to play on Notre Dame’s home court Monday, or North Carolina felt having to play undefeated South Carolina as a road game? Then there’s the case of Utah having to play Gonzaga on Gonzaga’s home court—where the Zags had won 35 straight games entering Monday’s match? Utah was ranked all season and should have been treated more fairly, yet it didn’t seem to matter to the NCAA. What is the NCAA afraid of? Are they afraid of sparse crowds if they don’t guarantee home sites? That would be better than fixed results.

Similar situations occurred in the Round of 32 when Oklahoma had to play Indiana in Bloomington, Nebraska had to play Oregon State in Corvallis and Alabama was forced to play Texas in Austin. Oh, Duke and Baylor were a couple of teams who were able to overcome the handicaps, but that doesn’t mean it was fair.

And one final blow. Consider poor little Middle Tennessee’s situation. After upsetting Louisville in the first round Friday, they had to face Kim Mulkey’s LSU team in Baton Rouge, where a full house of thousands of crazed fans was waiting. MTSU hung tough and actually led by four at halftime, by running and hitting threes before Mulkey let her ill-mannered squad loose in the second half.

Foul after foul was called on the visitors until Middle Tennessee could no longer fight back. Mulkey coaches what could only be called “bully-ball.” The final blow was when LSU’s top bully, Angel Reese (she’s no angel) flopped causing MTSU’s Czech star Anastasia Boldyreva to go crying to the bench after being flagged for her fifth and final foul. As Anastasia walked off with tears dripping down, Reese taunted her by waving and saying “bye-bye” urging the crowd to join her.

Yes, women’s basketball has grown and is fun to watch, especially with stars like Caitlan Clark. It doesn’t need any help from the NCAA by fixing home sites, or for that matter, a blind eye by the broadcasting network.

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Rich Podolsky

Rich Podolsky, an established writer and reporter since the 70s, has been a staff writer for CBS and has written for ESPN, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Palm Beach Post, the Wilmington News Journal, College & Pro Football Newsweekly and TV Guide. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers' Keystone Award for writing excellence. A fan of music from the 60s and 70s, he is the author of "Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear," which relates how Kirshner discovered Bobby Darin, Carole King and Neil Sedaka among others, and "Neil Sedaka, Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor,” which tells the inside story of Sedaka’s comeback. His new book, “You Are Looking Live!” is about CBS’ revolutionary pregame show in 1975 which introduced Brent, Phyllis, Irv and The Greek to America.

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