Changes to NCAA tournament recommended

By Carl Adamec

If the participants in the women’s basketball white paper Summit in Indianapolis Monday have their way, changes will be coming to the NCAA tournament.

There was a consensus opinion by a majority vote that the women’s Final Four be moved a weekend later with a Friday-Sunday format and that the top-16 seeds should host first- and second-round games for future tournaments.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma was among those attending.

The group also supported the concept of having two super regionals feeding into the Final Four, instead of the current four-regional format. There was also support to have these super regionals hosted on a semi-permanent basis in the same city, which would allow a community a chance to market the event on more than a one-time basis.

Other recommendations reached by consensus vote were a hosting format where the super regionals and Final Four would be hosted in the same locations in multiple years on a rotating basis, as well as conducting championships for all three divisions on the same weekend for the 2016 Final Four, which will be held in Indianapolis.

Since it is an ad-hoc group, all recommendations made out of the summit can only move forward through the NCAA governance structure.

The summit, which took place at the NCAA national office on Monday, brought together conference representatives, campus athletics administrators, women’s basketball head coaches, an on-court official, television executives and other stakeholders of the game.

“There was a tremendous amount of energy in the room,” NCAA vice president of 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.”

The goal of the group was to move forward with ideas that came out of the white paper written by Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman, who was hired as a consultant — before her current appointment — by the NCAA championships and alliances staff to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the sport.

One of the topics that drew a lot of conversation was the state of the game on the court. Many around the room addressed what they thought was the most important aspect of the game that needed to be enhanced.

Flow of the game and freedom of movement were the most common answers. Protecting the shooters and dribblers were also brought into the discussion.

Other on-court items that were discussed were going from two halves to four quarters, using a 24-second shot clock and widening the lane.

Another topic that drew a lot of discussion centered on the need for skill development of youth basketball and coaches at that level.

“Coaches have to be better,” Auriemma said. “We have to teach the game better. We have a lot of coaches in this country, but we don’t have a lot of teachers. The players we’re getting need a lot of teaching. We have to work hard to make sure we can do that.”

One of the critiques of the current format in summer basketball is that too much attention is being paid to game competition and not enough on skill development. Some of the coaches in the room suggested that the NCAA should certify skill-development events to help send a message that this is important to the evaluation process for college coaches.

The participants in the meeting also discussed the possibility of reducing scholarships from 15 to 13, but after a prolonged debate, it was decided that the limit should remain where it currently stands. This was mainly due to the injury factor in women’s basketball.