Here’s What’s Happening
LOGO DEVELOPMENT | SPECIAL MEMORIES | WINNER ANNOUNCED | U.S. OLYMPICS TEAM | SUMMITT CELEBRATION | DALLAS TRAILS | NATIONAL MEDIA DAY | SIDELINE NEWS | BIG GAMES TO WATCH | THANKSGIVING TOURNAMENTS | HOLIDAY MATCHUPS | COMMITTEE INSIDE SCOOP | JANUARY SCHEDULE | ALICIA THOMPSON
Your favorite NCAA Women’s Final Four memory.
Was it a play? The roar of the crowd as your team won? Seeing the arena for the first time? The joy of being with family and friends?
The Women’s Final Four means something different to everyone. And yet, the Women’s Final Four logo must capture all these memories for anyone who attends, from student-athletes to fans.
Each year, the NCAA starts from scratch to develop that year’s Women’s Final Four logo. No matter what, each city, each year is a new experience. Even if the Women’s Final Four has been to the city previously, the logo must distinctly represent the host city like never before and unquestionably elicit the memories made at that year’s championship. Each championship deserves to be represented uniquely – just as each memory made at a Women’s Final Four is unique in its own right.
So for Dallas 2017, where did the we start? Right in the heart of Dallas, of course.
PART ONE: DISCOVER DALLAS
We asked: What makes Dallas so special? When someone visits there, what do they tell their family and friends about when they return home? What are locals proud of?
We also ask one of our creative agency partners and the lead at designing each year’s championship logo, Joe Bosack and Co., to look visually at the city of Dallas. What is the architecture like there? What colors you see? What patterns pop up around the city? If people draw the city from memory, what do they draw?
This is the fun part. Seriously fun. We get to hear and see the voice of Dallas. Learn what makes Dallas so special – special enough to be an inspiration for what the entire championship should look like.
For 2017 in Dallas, the one thing we heard over and over again - and saw in the buildings, businesses, partners and people of Dallas - is that BIG things happen in Dallas.
Soaring buildings. Larger than life personalities. Wondrous culture. Impressive skyline. Bright lights. Massive pride.
It’s clear, Dallas is the big time.
So we want people to bring their big basketball dreams here. The dreams that start at the beginning of the season, but end in Dallas. The ones that will end with confetti falling on a big trophy with big cheers from a big crowd at the big time of women’s basketball – the Women’s Final Four.
PART TWO: MAKING THE LOGO:
With that BIG inspiration, we took to designing the logo. To start, we know that there are a few elements that must be in every logo that make it “official” for NCAA Championships:
- • Women’s Final Four
- • NCAA
- • Dallas
- • 2017
The rest of the logo is dependent solely on the Dallas inspiration.
Over the course of two months, we saw a variety of logo concepts based on some key Dallas icons, including the star of Texas, Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, and Reunion Tower. Of all the logo ideas though, most impressive and evocative logo developed was based on the biggest Dallas icon, its skyline.
Ranked as one of the most memorable skylines in the world, the Dallas skyline is known for its interactive neon lights that brighten the city and culture at night. In Dallas, nothing better represents making it to the “big time” than looking up in the Women’s Final Four city and seeing those big, bright lights, welcoming you to the biggest stage of NCAA women’s basketball.
With the logo now finalized, the next step comes creating the graphics package or “look” – i.e. what design will be behind the logo when the NCAA makes signage, marketing materials, websites and anything else that represents the 2017 Women’s Final Four in Dallas.
PART THREE: DESIGNING THE LOOK
This year’s look came naturally out of the logo. A unique image developed by Joe Bosack & Co. uses the logo’s skyline linework and integrates it with key basketball elements, including a basketball, net, March Madness bracket, the star of Texas and state outline of Texas. This image or “key art” is the basis for the entire graphics package and will be seen on all pieces involved in the championship. At times, it might be zoomed out or may be cropped in closley to help provide a variety of options for the NCAA to use.
To keep the look fresh, bold and entertaining, we utilize pop colors seen bright lights in the skyline and several other key Dallas icons, like Dallas’ Pegasus. These colors are added into the key art to create impact and visual interest when we zoom into the key art to create different framing options.
From there, we balance the look with some neutral, yet strong background colors like black and deep blue to help bring that brightness to life during the course of the Women’s Final Four.
The font, Bigford is simple and strong, to make the statement clear that student-athlete and fans are at the biggest and best NCAA Women’s Final Four yet!
All of the NCAA design partners, from signage to in-venue to digital take the logo and look to create their parts and pieces that make the Women’s Final Four championship complete. For them, the logo and look serve as a way to make the Women’s Final Four come alive at the hotels, fan events, in marketing pieces, on tickets, within the arena and for any other touchpoints.
DO YOU SEE DALLAS?
Once the NCAA National Champion is crowned and people return home from Dallas, we hope wherever and whenever the 2017 Women’s Final Four logo and look is seen, that Dallas comes to mind in the years that follow. You might see it on a t-shirt, that jacket you couldn’t live without, a basketball or even in your own selfies. You’ll remember the competition in Dallas. The sights in Dallas. The friends and family at the games. And all the BIG fun everyone had together.
Be a part of the BIG action at this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Dallas. It’s an experience you’ll never forget! For more information about the BIG city of Dallas click here.
For four young fans, their favorite memory from the 2016 Women’s Final Four was earning a coveted spot to as a ball kid through the inaugural Ball Kid Battles held throughout the Indianapolis area last season. It was a dream come true to be on the court with the women they admire while hoping that one day they will play in the Women’s Final Four.
“My favorite experience as a ball kid was seeing all the Women’s Final Four players in person. As a young player, I learned many different post moves the players used to get to the basket. What I enjoyed most is watching Breanna Stewart because she shows all girls that if you never give up, then you can strive to the top and succeed.” -Maddi Fulks
Throughout the battles, we met dozens of girls who absolutely love this game, including one extraordinary girl, Emma Perry, who uses basketball as a way to cope with Crohn’s Disease. While Emma didn’t win a spot as a ball kid, she was selected as the grand marshal of The Bounce because of her perseverance and strength.
“Being the Bounce Grand Marshal was a really fun experience. I just started playing the sport not too long ago. The Women’s Final Four has allowed me to love the game even more! My favorite experience was dribbling a basketball from the arena to Tourney Town with a lot of other kids. What made everything fun was making new friends. I’m excited to keep playing basketball!” -Emma Perry
“Emma is a unique girl. At 10, she's been through more than most adults have. She has severe Crohn's Disease which could easily (and has) limit her physical ability to do anything. Basketball has become so enjoyable for her and so good for her. I love how she's not allowing her disease to stop or slow her down. I pray that is always the case. The NCAA and Bounce event has truly put more excitement in her for basketball. Everything we engaged in brought a lot of sunshine our way.” -Meg Perry, Emma’s Mom
If you there is someone you admire for his or her courage, tell us about them using #FourItAll for a chance to be included in unique opportunities throughout the 2017 Women’s Final Four.
We love hearing from our biggest fans, so we are excited to announce our June newsletter contest winner where we asked fans to share their favorite memories from the 2016 Women’s Final Four. Michael Kamer and his daughter, Molly, the #1 Thomas More women’s basketball fan won an exclusive 2016 Women’s Final Four banner that was hanging in the streets of Indianapolis.
Congratulations, Michael and Molly! Thanks for coming to Indy to cheer on the Saints as they took home the NCAA Division III national championship trophy.
With 11-out-of-12 2016 Olympic team members playing in at least one Women’s Final Four, it will be exciting to watch these elite athletes come together to bring home another gold medal in Rio. In total, the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams won seven gold medals, one silver and one bronze going 58-3 all-time. The current team will bring a 41-game Olympic winning streak to Rio that started at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
At the 2016 Women’s Final Four, the NCAA honored members of the first-ever Olympic team that won a silver medal in Montreal in 1976. Team member Gail Marquis reflects on these special basketball moments.
“Being on the first USA Women’s Olympic Basketball Team, to this day, is something that I think about every single day of my life. Some people remember their wedding or their first child born. I always remember lining up outside of the Olympic Stadium in Montreal with the entire USA team. And as we marched just looking at the crowd as we approached the opening. And as the crowds got deeper, and louder and bigger, we entered the Olympic Stadium and it was like POW! You have arrived. I felt the roar of the crowd in my chest. I looked up and saw the Queen of England (in pink) waving at me. I waved back. I got chills. That’s when I realized what I had done. I had made the Olympic Team. I was an Olympian.
To walk on to the court in Indianapolis at the Women’s Final Four fame was a chilling and memorable moment. I couldn’t believe the reception from the crowd. The ovation. And then when they played the Olympic theme song; it hit me again just like when I entered the stadium in Montreal for the opening Ceremony. “Gail what have you done. What have you accomplished?” I got choked up and almost cried. I had my Olympic Medal with me around my neck. I take it with me to show people because a lot of people have never seen one. My Olympic Medal enjoyed the cheers all over again!
I tell young girls and boys to set goals. Dream big. Work hard—harder than you ever thought that you could and then harder still. But most important, I tell them, don’t give up on your dreams. They are your dreams. You can change them. You can alter the ending. But don’t ever give up on yourself.”
Click here to read more about the impact women’s basketball had on Gail’s life from college to the Olympics and beyond. Be sure to use #NCAAinRio to keep track of all college athletes competing for their home countries in the 2016 Olympic Games.
Legendary coach Pat Summitt was Marquis’ teammate on the 1976 Olympic team where she was the oldest member at the age of 24 and a co-captain of the team. After winning a silver in 1976 Summitt was slated to be an assistant coach for the 1980 Moscow games before the games were boycotted by the U.S. In 1984, she was named the head coach of the Olympic team earning the first gold medal for the women’s basketball team. This also made Summitt the first person to play and coach the U.S. Olympic team.
The women’s basketball community came together on July 14 to honor the late Summitt for the impact she had on the game with family, friends, former players, head coaches from around the country and NCAA staff celebrated the life of Summitt in Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. The celebration, hosted by ABC’s Robin Roberts, was broadcast live to a national television audience on ESPN2. Those speaking at the celebration included Summitt’s son, Tyler and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Summitt died at 64 years old on June 28. She had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2011 and retired from coaching in 2012. One of the greatest college basketball coaches in history, Summitt led Tennessee to eight national championships and a record 1,098 wins during her 38 years on the sideline for the Lady Vols. Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw, Kara Lawson and Nikki McCray were among the stars who suited up for Summitt.
Thank you for being part of the women’s basketball community that continues to grow the game across the country. We will be even bigger when we add Dallas to the list of Women’s Final Four cities in 2017. And everything is bigger in Texas. But no need to worry about getting around this fun city because they’ve thought of everything, including the Katy Trail. Formerly a rail line flowing through Dallas, the Katy Trail is a beacon for walkers, joggers and riders through the Uptown and Downtown districts. Entrance points along the 3.5-mile trail will drop you off at the front stoop of some of Dallas’ must-see districts, restaurants and bars, including the American Airlines Center.
We hope to see you inside the American Airlines Center Friday, March 31 and Sunday, April 2 for the biggest basketball of the season. A limited number of upper bowl tickets are on sale now, including the Finals Fanatics section created for the biggest basketball fans. For only $75 each fan will receive a ticket in the 300 level for all three games, as well as a food voucher, complimentary ticket to a Dallas Wings game, signed photo of a Dallas Wings player and airtime on the American Airlines Center videoboard during the Women’s Final Four. Click here to purchase your tickets today!
To insure our loyal fans have access to the best available seats, lower bowl tickets for the event will go on sale in multiple phases beginning with Phase I on Wednesday, October 26 (previous Women’s Final Four purchasers and Dallas Regional purchasers) and Phase II on Thursday, October 27 (previous Women’s Basketball Championship purchasers, Dallas Local Organizing Committee and the NCAA Women’s Basketball Newsletter recipients – that’s you!). Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, October 28 and start as low as $35. Click here for more information or email questions to Womensfftickets@ncaa.org.
The NCAA and ESPN combined efforts on Tuesday, Nov. 1 for the second annual Women’s Basketball National Media Day that took place on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn.
Participants included student-athletes Diamond DeShields, Tennessee; Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State; Kelsey Plum, Washington; Leticia Romero, Florida State; Brianna Turner, Notre Dame and A’ja Wilson, South Carolina. Head coaches included Karen Aston, Texas; Geno Auriemma, UConn; Cori Close, UCLA; Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame; Dawn Staley, South Carolina and Jeff Walz, Louisville. Participants appeared live on numerous ESPN programs including Mike & Mike, First Take, E:60 and SportsCenter. Additional content was filmed and will air during the coming season on ESPN, ESPN2, SEC Network, Longhorn Network and espnW. It’s estimated that ESPN show appearances alone reached a total audience of over 2 million people during the live programming portions. Facebook Live interviews on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Facebook site were very successful, with almost 53,000 video views. Check out the archived Facebook Live interviews at https://www.facebook.com/pages/NCAA-Womens-Basketball/166220059146?v=wall)
“What better way to start another women’s basketball season than to celebrate with our friends at ESPN,” said Rick Nixon, NCAA associate director. “Women’s Basketball National Media Day has become must-see TV for all involved in the game and is a coveted invitation for those considered to participate. Our second annual media day included the top student-athletes and coaches in the game and has become a great way for the sporting public to meet the next wave of stars that they will be watching over the next five months, culminating at the Women’s Final Four next April in Dallas. We have received an overwhelming response from our stakeholders on how important the day has become and appreciate the time, effort and coordination it took by everyone involved at ESPN to make the day special. Let the games begin!”
As you begin tuning into games this season, you might wondering where your favorite coach is these days. With numerous coaching changes have taken place since the end of last season, here’s a look at several coaches on the move:
- • Former Indiana Fever head coach Stephanie White has moved to the college ranks and is now the head coach at Vanderbilt. Since arriving in Nashville, White has added Carolyn Peck, former college head coach and ESPN analyst, as her associate head coach for the Commodores. Vanderbilt, which went 18-14 last season, is looking for a return to the NCAA tournament in 2017.
- • Coaching Hall of Famer, Lin Dunn, has opted to come out of retirement and join the University of Kentucky program as the associate head coach, under head coach Matthew Mitchell. Most recently, Dunn led the Indiana Fever to a WNBA championship in 2012, before deciding to retire in 2014. Kentucky went 25-8 last season and advanced to the regional semifinal round of the NCAA Championship.
- • After a 26-7 season and trip to the NCAA tournament, the George Washington Colonials welcome new head coach Jennifer Rizzotti to the program. Rizzotti spent the summer as an assistant coach for Team USA’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s basketball team. The former UConn standout previously led the Hartford Hawks program for the past 17 years.
- • Rizzotti replaced Jonathan Tsipis at George Washington after Tsipis moved on to Wisconsin to lead the Badgers. Tsipis recently completed his fourth season at George Washington, leading the Colonials to a second straight NCAA tournament appearance. The Colonials were 92-38 overall under Tsipis and captured the past two Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and conference tournament championships. At Wisconsin, Tsipis inherits a Wisconsin team that went 7-22 last season.
- • Sean O’Regan takes over the James Madison program after serving as an associate head coach for the past nine seasons. James Madison went 27-6 in 2016.
- • Albany hired Joanna Bernabei-McNamee away from the University of Pikeville to coach a Great Dane team that went 28-5 in 2016 and advanced to the second-round of the NCAA tournament.
- • After 13 years at Robert Morris as an assistant and associate head coach, Charlie Buscaglia is now the head coach at Robert Morris, taking over a team that went 20-13 in 2016.
- • Former Stanford standout Molly Goodenbour is the new coach at San Francisco. Goodenbour has previously served as head coach for Cal State-East Bay. She inherits a San Francisco team that went 21-12 in 2015-16, playing in the NCAA tournament.
- • Jesse Fleming comes to St. Bonaventure after spending the past four seasons at Bowling Green, most recently as associate head coach. St. Bonaventure went 24-8 last season, advancing to the second-round of the NCAA tournament.
The four-time defending national champion UConn Huskies are riding a 75-game winning streak, yet when the preseason Associated Press top-25 poll for the 2016-17 season was released on Nov. 1, UConn was ranked No. 3. Are we witnessing the changing of the guard, or will the Huskies use that as motivation for another record-setting run? Questions to ponder with the start of another season at hand. Fans will be treated out of the gate with numerous early-season marquee matchups taking place between some of the best teams in country. UConn, which will be looking to overcome the departure of senior standouts Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, will be put to the test early, with games against Florida State (Nov. 14), Baylor (Nov. 17), DePaul (Dec. 1), Texas (Dec. 4) and Notre Dame (Dec. 7) during the season’s first 30 days. Here are some other key early-season matchups that might provide an indication of whom to expect in Dallas for the 2017 Women’s Final Four:
- • Nov. 11 - Miami (Fla.) at Kentucky
- • Nov. 14 - UConn at Florida State
- • Nov. 14 - South Carolina at Ohio State
- • Nov. 14 - UCLA at Baylor
- • Nov. 14 – Texas at Stanford
- • Nov. 17 – Baylor at UConn
- • Nov. 20 – Texas at Mississippi State
- • Nov. 23 – South Dakota State at Oklahoma
- • Nov. 27 – Louisville vs. South Carolina
• Nov. 30 – Notre Dame at Iowa
For many, Thanksgiving weekend means over-indulging on food and drink while watching football on TV. For hundreds of women’s basketball teams it also means tournament play in faraway lands, with Mexico, Bahamas and the Virgin Islands serving as backdrops for games interspersed with beach excursions. Many of the nation’s top teams will be in action. Here’s a sampling of the many Thanksgiving Tournaments to track, with scores available throughout at http://www.ncaa.com/scoreboard/basketball-women/d1:
- Savannah Invitational (Savannah Civic Center, Savannah, Ga.) Nov. 22-24
Tournament field: Auburn, Ball State, East Carolina, Marist, North Carolina A&T and West Virginia.
- Cancun Challenge (Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Peninsula, Mexico) Nov. 23-26
Tournament field: Davidson, James Madison, Idaho State, Iowa, Northeastern, Purdue, Stanford, Toledo, UCLA and Wichita State.
- Paradise Jam (Sports and Fitness Center, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and ) Nov. 23-26
Tournament field: Florida State, Gonzaga, Kansas State, LSU, Michigan, North Carolina State, UTEP and Winthrop.
- San Juan Shootout (Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, Fla.), Nov. 24-25
Tournament field: American, Clemson, Georgetown, Georgia State, Loyola Chicago, Penn State, Troy, Virginia Commonwealth and Wright State.
- Junkaroo Jam (St. George's High School, Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas) Nov. 24-26
Tournament field: Creighton, Dayton, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and USF.
- South Point Shootout (Chaifetz Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.) Nov. 25-26
Tournament field: Arizona State, Maryland, Nebraska, St. John’s (N.Y.), Virginia and Washington State.
- Gulf Coast Showcase (Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.) Nov. 25-27
Tournament field: Baylor, DePaul, FGCU, George Washington, Kent State, Ohio State, Syracuse and Western Kentucky.
- Miami Thanksgiving Tournament (Watsco Center, Coral Gables, Fla.) Nov. 25-27
Tournament field: Fordham, Grambling State, Miami (FL) and Texas Tech.
- UTSA Thanksgiving Classic (UTSA Convocation Center, San Antonio, Texas Nov. 25-27
Tournament field: Eastern Michigan, Northern Colorado, Tulane and UTSA.
The end of December not only signals the end to the calendar year, but it also serves as a marker for teams as they anticipate the start to conference play. While it’s true that conference championships won’t be won or lost in late December and early January, games played then can go along way in deciding which teams will be in contention for titles when March rolls around.
Defending national champion UConn, which starts American Athletic Conference play on January 4, will have several intriguing road matchups during the Christmas holidays worth watching. The Huskies travel to Nebraska on Dec. 21, play undefeated Maryland on Dec. 29 and then travel to UCF on New Year’s Day. UConn, which is closing in on history, currently has an 84-game winning streak going into the Ohio State game on Dec. 19. Six wins away from tying their record winning streak of 90 games set from 2008 to 2010, UConn would be in line to break their old record when they play at SMU on Jan. 14 if they can maintain their winning ways.
Among the many conferences beginning play in late December and over New Year’s weekend includes the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference. Make sure to check out the daily list of scheduled games HERE.
- Here are several notable games in which to watch for in late December and early January:
- December 21
- • UConn @ Nebraska
- December 27
- • Washington State @ Washington
- December 28
- • Iowa @ Illinois
- • Minnesota @ Ohio State
- December 29
- • Kentucky @ Duke
- • Notre Dame @ North Carolina State
- • UConn @ Maryland
- • Syracuse @ Louisville
- • Florida State @ Miami (Fla.)
- • West Virginia @ TCU
- December 30
- • Stanford @ Arizona State
- • Washington @ Oregon
- • Utah @ UCLA
- • Colorado @ USC
- December 31
- • South Dakota State @ South Dakota
- • Ohio State @ Indiana
- Janurary 1
- • Texas @ Iowa State
- • TCU @ Oklahoma
- • Washington @ Oregon State
- • UConn @ UCF
- • LSU @ Mississippi State
- • Kentucky @ Tennessee
- January 2
- • Louisville @ Duke
- • North Carolina @ Virginia Tech
- • Providence @ DePaul
- January 3
- • Ohio State @ Northwestern
Mary Ellen Gillespie, director of athletics at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and a member of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee since 2015, recently sat down with the Women’s Basketball Insider to provide her perspective on what it takes to perform the job of a committee member and to look behind the scenes at the upcoming selection process. The 64-team championship bracket will be announced on Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN
- Q - What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a member of the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee?
The biggest challenge is the pressure to get it right. I have a sign at my desk that I look at every day and it says “For the good of the game, let’s get it right.” So preparation is key and that brings on the second biggest challenge and that is time. On top of regular committee meetings and calls, I need to make time to watch games, time to gather intel on teams through conference liaisons, time to digest information from coaches on regional calls, time to analyze the additional data that is available to us. The volume of information available is incredible and very helpful to us in getting it right. Last year was my first year on the committee and it is overwhelming just trying to organize yourself, manage time, etc. That’s probably why it’s a five-year commitment—it takes one whole year just to figure it all out!
- Q - What is your favorite part of being a committee member?
I love so many aspects of this committee role, but my favorite part of being a committee member is the role that I can play in helping elevate the sport of women’s basketball. Some think we meet once a year, set a bracket of 64 teams and then sit back and wait till next year. The committee spends significant time throughout the year discussing marketing the game, televising and increasing the visibility of the game, increasing attendance, telling the story of this great sport and then working with a great NCAA staff team to put on a top quality championship experience that student-athletes will remember for the rest of their lives. I also love working with great people both on the committee and on the NCAA staff. They are passionate about women’s basketball and work very hard to get it right and to create a great championship.
- Q - How many games do you typically watch in a given week during the season? How many total throughout the season?
I average about 15-17 games per week. Right now I should be on track to finish the season before conference tournaments with approximately 140-155 games watched. I DVR most games. If someone were to look at my DVR scheduled recordings for this week, they would see Madam Secretary and then women’s college basketball 12 times this week! I also have AppleTV and watch ESPN3, and I log onto the apps and websites of the conferences as well. Not watching live allows me to fast forward through commercials, half-times, etc. and helps save time. I usually get up at 4 a.m. and watch about three games before heading to work. Then at night I watch another three and on the weekends, when I’m not watching my Green Bay basketball teams playing at home, I hunker down and marathon watch games. I have a game journal and every game I watch has notes, some of which include starting line-ups (especially in the beginning of the season so I get to “know” the players), injured players, officials, key players, key moments in the game and my observations of team strengths, challenges, etc. This year I will also see some games in person at Northwestern and Wisconsin given my proximity to those schools and since the Big Ten is one of my primary conferences. I try to imagine what the committee experience was like 15-20 years ago before ESPN3 and AppleTV, before streaming and before smartphones became the devices they are today.
- Q - How do you balance being director of athletics at Green Bay and being a member of the committee?
I won’t sugar coat it----it’s very challenging but I love wearing both hats. I am very fortunate to have a fantastic staff who keeps the trains running on time when I’m at committee meetings and also from the time I leave for selection weekend until the time I get back from the Women’s Final Four. I also have an incredibly supportive chancellor who supports me in this role, values women’s basketball and understands the visibility that this important role brings to Green Bay. That being said, I save my game watching for early mornings, nights and weekends so I can be present at my AD job. My Green Bay athletics director role comes first and the student-athletes, coaches and staff at Green Bay are my top priority. Do I have a life from November until April outside of being an AD and serving on the women’s basketball committee? Probably not but I do it because I love it. I have made great friendships and professional connections that I will keep for a lifetime.
- Q - The committee has announced that three times this season the top 16 seeds will be revealed. What is the committee hoping to accomplish with these early announcements?
Two main priorities with announcing the top 16 seeds. First and foremost, we want to drive attention to the game and generate buzz and excitement. The timing of the announcements are strategic and will be marketed well. ESPN shared the results of the announcements last season and the numbers were very positive when we did ten. This year we do the top 16 seeds and we are confident the numbers will be very strong again. Second we do it so the top 16 seeds can start to plan and market to host first and second rounds. While nothing is final about the top 16 until Selection Monday, those 16 schools should start making plans and the schools near the top of that list of sixteen really need to get to work on plans for hosting and communicating with fans. Those that do start preliminary work with marketing and selling tickets have better attendance and an overall better organized event.
- Q - How many times does the committee meet in-person or via conference call to talk about teams during the season? What is gained most by that interaction?
The committee meets several times throughout the year but once the basketball season starts we have two in-person meetings before selection weekend (NCAA Convention in January and in Indianapolis in February) and approximately five conference calls. Those calls are solely the committee and the women’s basketball staff. That does not include our individual monthly calls with our primary and secondary conferences or the 12 regional calls with coaches that all committee members attend.
These meetings and calls are important because each committee member gives a deep dive on those teams in her/his primary and secondary conferences. And when I say deep dive, I mean deep dive. It is more than wins, losses or RPI. We discuss the entire body of work up to that date. That is why our game watching, our calls with conference office staff and regional calls with coaches are so important. All of those provide what I call “good intel.” Preparation is key to these meetings and calls and we need to be prepared to answer questions from other committee members such as “When did so and so get hurt? Was she out of the game against team X?” or “They have a bad loss against team A----what happened?”
- Q - What do you enjoy most about selection weekend?
I’m a data, information and process junkie so I love that all our work, all our preparation of game watching, conference calls and rankings get poured out one last time at selection weekend and a bracket is born. I love the conversations, debates, arguments (at times) and the excitement of watching the last of the conference tournaments that have the potential to put selection on hold while we await the outcome of the games.
- Q - What is typically your first reaction when the bracket is revealed on Selection Monday?
I’m excited for the 64 teams. I’m also proud of our committee’s work and I’ll be honest---there’s a little bit of exhaustion. That can’t last long because it’s a return to Green Bay on Monday to pack and get ready to head to the location I am assigned to for first and second rounds of the championship.
- Q - What are some of the most common misperceptions of the selection process that you deal with as a committee member?
From conversations and questions I get from fans, coaches and administrators, I think people are under the impression that there is one formula for gaining entry into the championship and that the committee uses one or two pieces of criteria to make their decisions. I think that perception is waning because of the mock selection that the NCAA coordinates for coaches and media every August but it does still exist to a degree. At the end of the day, every year is different and there isn’t one recipe for success.
Another misperception people have is they think RPI is the end all be all when it comes to selection. RPI is only one part of the very long equation. Another perception is team performance in past tournaments makes a difference in at-large selection or seeding. Every year is different and how a team did in last year’s tournament has no bearing on selection or seeding. Finally, there are some that think lobbying the committee right before selection weekend or during selection weekend, similar to how some schools put together PR packets to receive a football bowl bid, has influence on the committee. Nothing could be further from the truth. Believe me, we have all the data we need. Everyone on the committee works tirelessly to get the bracket right and put together a great championship.
- Q - Each of the 10 committee members processes team performance differently. What are your defining points when deciding if a team is worthy of at-large consideration for the championship field or not?
The ten of us do weigh criteria differently and it can lead to some great debates in the selection room. When it comes to determining at-large bids, after looking at the team’s entire body of work, we drill down deeper because we probably, at that point, still have too many teams for available at-large spots. When drilling down I want to see that a team has challenged itself. Did the team schedule up? Does it have games against teams in the top 25 or 50 or did they play it safe and play too many games they could control against teams of 150+? The most important task for each committee member is to stay consistent with how she/he makes at-large decisions. When I arrive in the selection room, I have a post-it that I put on my computer keyboard with my top criteria and I stick to that when I advocate for teams, when I debate and when I cast my vote for at-large teams.
As the schedule turns to January play, fans across the country will be paying special attention over the next two months to the respective battles that will be taking place in the 32 conferences. Automatic qualification will be on the line as teams look to improve their seed in their respective conference tournaments, with those winners gaining an automatic bid into the 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket.
- ESPN.com is good source for updated conference standings at http://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/standings.
Daily scores are available at NCAA.com: http://www.ncaa.com/scoreboard/basketball-women/d1.
With 32 conference tournament winners earning automatic entry into the 2017 championship, the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Sport Committee is then tasked in selecting the best 32 at-large schools that will then complete in the 64-team tournament field that will be announced on Selection Monday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN.
An ambassador for the 2017 Women’s Final Four, Alicia Thompson is a native Texan and decorated basketball standout, earning All-America recognition at Texas Tech. She ranks second on the Lady Raiders’ all-time scoring list with 2,156 points and earned Big 12 Player of the Year as a senior. Thompson was a WNBA first-round draft pick and went on to win a championship with the Seattle Storm in 2004. She later went on to play professionally in Spain, Italy, Israel and Turkey. A personal trainer, Thompson is currently head coach and director of basketball operations for the Dallas Skyline, the local Women's Minor League Basketball team.
- Q - Having been in Dallas a short time yourself, what are the three things that you would recommend for visitors to try in the city before the Women’s Final Four concludes?
- The three things I recommend all visitors to do while in Dallas are:
- 1. Dallas Museum of Art.
- 2. Visit the Deep Ellum District for Great Food and Entertainment.
3. Visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
- Q - What are your favorite restaurants downtown?
My favorite restaurants are not downtown, but in the Uptown area right around the corner from downtown. They are Spinal Diner & Bakery, Cosmic Cafe, Namoo Korean BBQ Restaurant, Roti Grill, and Tacos Y Mas.
- Q - Having grown up in Texas, how would you describe a typical Texan?
Texans are very down-to-earth, loving, hospitable people. A Texan will invite you into their home and make you feel like you are a part of the family by the time you leave. We are about making people feel comfortable and happy. A day with a Texan will include a huge home-cooked meal, music and dancing, drinks, lots of laughing and good ole fashioned fun.
- Q - Physical fitness is important to you. What are your favorite workouts and why?
My favorite workouts vary; however have one common theme, INTENSITY! I love all workouts that push me to the limit. Workouts using HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and kettlebells are fun. I also love incorporating sport specific workouts that include boxing, speed and agility, plyometrics, and Olympic lifts. I love to do full-body workouts that burn the most amount of calories in the least amount of time.
- Q - What are some of the biggest differences in the collegiate game today compared to when you played at Texas Tech in the mid-90’s?
Of course I'm biased, but basketball players in the 90's were a much more aggressive, athletic, gritty player. Don't get me wrong, players today are talented as well, but the 90' athletes were amazingly tough. You also see more girls who are dunking in today's game as opposed to the 90s.
- Q - What was your favorite collegiate moment?
My favorite collegiate team moment is winning both regular season and Big 12 Tournament titles in 1998. My favorite personal collegiate moment would be being selected as the Big 12 Player of the Year in 1998.
- Q - What was your favorite professional moment?
Favorite professional team moment is winning the WNBA Championship in 2004. My favorite professional personal moment is being a top ten draftee to play in the WNBA.
- Q - What makes a great teammate?
A great teammate is one who is supportive, selfless, honest, non-judgmental, fair, competitive, grounded, calm, patient, respectful and fearless. A good teammate doesn't yell, but speaks with honor. She leads by example, holds her teammates accountable and takes responsibility for her mistakes. She doesn't ask " What can the team do to make me better?" She asks "What can I do to make the team better."
- Q - Is UConn’s current dominance good or bad for the game in your opinion?
I think UConn's current dominance is amazing for the game of women's basketball. To me it says there is this amazing program with an amazing coach who continues to set legendary records by recruiting and producing amazing athletes. I do think their competition needs to find a way to beat them. Their dominance of the game has brought MUCH attention to women's basketball. How could that be a bad thing?
- Q - Making your selections today, whom would you predict will be in Dallas playing for the Women’s Final Four in late March?
UConn, Florida State, South Carolina and Notre Dame