This weekend’s NCAA Tournament games at Gampel Pavilion are expected to springboard UConn to the regional finals In Lincoln, Neb.
And once there, the Huskies could find themselves in a position no team likely will ever face against in the way a possible Final Four.
The Huskies and host Nebraska, the No. 4 seed in the region, were aligned to meet in the Sweet 16 on March 29. And Stanford, Notre Dame and Louisville are also in position as hosts to play critical Final Four feeders in front of partisan seIlout crowds.
Next season, the top four teams in each of the four NCAA brackets in the tournament will be asked to host first and second-round games. Then the NCAA will move away from hosting regionals on campus sites. Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Greensboro, N.C., and Albany, N.Y. will be the sites. And that’s the way Geno Auriemma wants it to stay forever.
“When they decided we’d go to neutral sites, I was all for it,” Auriemma said. “It’s hard enough to beat us in Bridgeport [the 2013 regional site] let alone come to Storrs to play us to go to the Final Four. The first and second round, I can understand [hosting at home]. So when they [the NCAA] asked for bids [for future regionals], I told the administration not to bid on it. I don’t believe in it, I don’t think it’s fair. I said [to the administration] that we’re passing on it [hosting].”
The issue of hosting regional events on campus sites is one of the most problematic faced by the sport where interest in the tournament is not wide-spread. Does the committee go for attendance and income or competitive fairness.
Auriemma feels it’s necessary to stay away from easy fixes.
“We need to find what works for us and not try to be like the men, like when we went to the domes [arenas] for a while,” Auriemma said. “We got a little carried away. We don’t need to be playing in those type of buildings and we don’t need to be playing in Storrs.
“We need to find four cities that are hotbeds, at least potentially, and we need to give them a chance to host for a few years at a time to build it, grow it, let them work it. They will know we are coming. They can be prepared. The city is expecting us. We need to be more like baseball and softball [which host their championships in Omaha, Neb., and Oklahoma City].
Field set for Thanksgiving tournament
Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt have been added to the eight-team field of the 2014 Gulf Coast Classic in Estero, Fla., from Nov. 27-29. UConn, Minnesota, Villanova, Arizona State, College of Charleston and Green Bay are the others. The Huskies three opponents will be announced later this year … Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn was scouting UConn’s practice Saturday. The Fever have the 5th and 9th picks in the first round of the upcoming draft.
The 8-9 game that will feed UConn’s possible second-round game on Tuesday is between No. 8 Georgia and No. 9 St. Joseph’s (Pa.). The Lady Bulldogs (20-11) are making their 31st NCAA appearance. They lost in the SEC quarterfinals to South Carolina. One of Georgia’s seven sophomores, Shacobia Barbee, leads them in four major categories including scoring and rebounding. “This time of year, you can watch a million film, have a million practices – well, really just four or five. But it’s really just about what you are going to do, how you are going to play, what points we can get and take advantage of,” said St. Joe’s coach Cindy Griffin.
Geno on Muffet
Auriemma was asked Saturday what he thought of Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw expressing disappointment during Monday’s selection show on ESPN that the Huskies would not find room on their schedule this season for the Irish: ““The scheduling part … Let me just say it’s not nice to fib during Lent,” Auriemma said. “That’s all I would have to say about that.’’
Jeannette Jackson, Prairie View’s leading scorer, was the one who scored the Panthers’ first basket against UConn the last time they played in the NCAA’s first-round in 2012. It was a 30-foot, banked three-pointer after the Huskies were up, 8-0. The Panthers trailed by just 14 at halftime (46-32) before losing, 83-47 ….St. Joseph’s is one of three Atlantic-10 teams in the tournament. UConn’s conference, the AAC, placed just UConn and Louisville. … Should Georgia win, Tuesday’s second-round game against UConn would be its first appearance against UConn at Gampel Pavilion since Jan. 15, 1996. Guard Saudia Roundtree, the Naismith Player of the Year that season, led the Lady Bulldogs to a 75-67 win over UConn’s defending national champions. .. Georgia hasn’t played UConn in a home-and-series since 1997 and coach Andy Landers explanation Saturday was right to the point. “We haven’t wanted to play them,” Landers said. “Will that change? Possibly. But we haven’t felt it was in our best interest.”