The NCAA brought in women’s basketball’s past and present to help shape the sport’s future.
Some of the top contributors in women’s basketball got together Monday as the NCAA hosted a women’s basketball summit with coaches, administrators, and committee members.
“There was a tremendous amount of energy in the room,” NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Anucha Browne said. “We got after some of the sensitive and critical issues facing our game. There was a strong consensus that we can’t continue to do what we’re doing.”
Monday’s discussions were framed around a paper that new Big East commissioner Val Ackerman put together and submitted to the NCAA in June that took a look at ways to improve women’s basketball in the short- and long-term.
“Absolutely it was useful,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “Any time people are paying attention and putting out an effort to make the game better makes it a good day. It’s work and I’m not saying everything we said is necessarily right, but it’s good to do it.”
While the group had no power to make changes, they came up with a bunch of recommendations based on Ackerman’s paper, including going back to the top 16 teams hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. That used to be the way until the tournament went to predetermined sites in 2003.
Moving the first two rounds of the tournament to the top seeds could help attendance. Last season the NCAA averaged 5,466 for all tournament rounds, which was 17th since the tournament began in 1982.
However, making that change would most likely lose a school like Gonzaga, which has been one of the most successful sites over the past few seasons.
“I’m a little disappointed in it if they go that way,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said. “The NCAA has to decide what are we doing? What’s important? Is it the atmosphere, the show on TV? If they do go that way it will probably take some drama out of the dramaless rounds.”
Graves may not have to worry yet. While theoretically it’s possible that the women’s committee could go with the group’s recommendation for this year’s tournament, it may not be logistically possible.
“We discussed the idea in June and didn’t do it, but we will re-evaluate it based on the recommendation from the summit,” said Pac-12 associate commissioner Chris Dawson, who is on the women’s basketball committee. “It might not just be feasible to put in right away.”
Other suggestions from Monday which can’t be implemented this season included:
— Moving the NCAA tournament back a week and changing back to a Friday-Sunday format for the Final Four instead of the current Sunday-Tuesday configuration.
— Going with three super regionals for the rounds of 16 and eight as well as the Final Four and rotating them every few years.
— Holding the Division I, II and III championships on the same weekend at the 2016 Final Four in Indianapolis.
Another area that was discussed Monday was officiating. Changes will be implemented this season to help clean up and allow more freedom of movement in the game by protecting the shooter and not allowing there to be contact on cuts anymore.
“At the beginning of the year if coaches don’t coach right there will be a zillion whistles,” said Bruno. “The knee-jerk reaction is going to be to blame them, but it’s on us. We are going to have to defend better.”
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