At its annual summer meeting last week, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee recognized that while planning is underway in anticipation of a complete 2020-21 season and postseason tournament, exercising patience and being as nimble as possible are important during these unprecedented times.
“The committee will continue to protect the integrity of the selection, seeding and bracketing process no matter the circumstances of the coming season,” said Nina King, senior deputy athletics director and chief of staff at Duke who is serving as chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee for the 2020-21 academic year.
“The committee has and will continue to track on the continuing COVID-19 pandemic developments and the effect those will have on conference and team participation and scheduling for the 2020-21 season. It remains the committee’s charge to select the 32 best at-large teams in the country and then to seed and bracket the 64-team championship field.”
The committee discussed numerous contingencies and scenarios that could be in play in 2020-21. Those included the effect of a reduction in both non-conference and conference games and how that would impact the selection process and one of the committee’s selection criteria, the women’s basketball NCAA Evaluation Tool.
In 2020-21, NET will replace the Ratings Percentage Index as the contemporary sorting tool used to measure a team’s quality and help evaluate team resumes for selection and seeding in the championship. The NET is one of 14 criteria used by the committee.
Along with the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee will continue to monitor the number of games played and the effect that will have on selections and the NET rankings, recognizing that a reduced schedule will offer fewer data points necessary to have a fully comprehensive ranking system.
The committee also was briefed on championship scenarios that could be under consideration in 2021, including playing championship games in venues at a reduced capacity and/or using social distancing.
“We must be attentive and prepared for any scenario and adjust in a responsible manner that protects the student-athletes, coaches, fans and other women’s basketball stakeholders as we return to sport,” King said.
The committee also was provided the latest on the championship site selection process that will include selection of cities to host the Women’s Final Four in 2025 and 2026, as well as the Division I regional sites for 2023-26, when Division I will implement a two-site, eight-team regional format. All bids have been submitted, and host cities will be announced in October.
Additionally, Debbie Richardson, senior associate commissioner at the Atlantic 10 Conference, was voted by her fellow committee members to serve as vice chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee in 2020-21. Richardson is set to begin her fifth year on the committee.
In addition to King and Richardson, the committee in 2020-21 will include Deneé Barracato, deputy director of athletics at Northwestern; Greg Burke, director of athletics at Northwestern State; Beth Goetz, director of athletics at Ball State; Kurt McGuffin, director of intercollegiate athletics at UT Martin; Lisa Peterson, deputy athletics director at Oregon; Jill Shields, deputy athletics director at Kansas State; and Tamica Smith Jones, director of intercollegiate athletics at UC Riverside. There is still one vacancy on the 10-person committee.