Oct. 13, 2010

NCAA Release

The journey down a road that hundreds of womens basketball teams hope will culminate with a trip to the Womens Final Four® has begun, as official practices are being conducted across the country this week. Many womens programs have started their preparations thanks to a new NCAA rule this year that permits womens teams to begin practicing 40 days before their first game. Several other teams will gather in arenas late Friday night to celebrate Midnight Madness, the annual celebration that marks the unofficial start to the season.

ESPNU will televise a four-hour ESPNU Midnight Madness special featuring extensive whiparound coverage from top college basketball programs around the nation on October 15 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU HD. The University of Connecticut womens program - the two-time defending national champion, which is riding a 78-game winning streak (10 short of the UCLA men's record for consecutive victories in NCAA Division I basketball) - will be featured along with several mens programs including defending national champion Duke University as well as Kentucky, Memphis, Gonzaga and Kansas State. The Huskies will be the first womens team to be showcased during Midnight Madness programming since the show debuted on ESPN platforms in 1993.

The question entering the 2010-11 womens season centers on Connecticuts winning streak and which teams will stand between the Huskies and a run at a third straight national championship. Non-conference play will provide an early indication as Connecticut faces Baylor on Nov. 16 in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic in a rematch of a 2010 national semifinal contest. A rematch of the 2010 national championship game will occur when Connecticut plays Stanford on Dec. 30. Additional non-conference womens matchups will take place across the country in November and December with key and important games featuring Rutgers-Stanford (Nov. 14), Texas-Stanford (Nov. 28), Oklahoma-Duke (Dec. 5), Tennessee-Baylor (Dec. 14), Stanford-Tennessee (Dec. 19), Xavier-Duke (Dec. 21), Xavier-Stanford (Dec. 28) and Rutgers-Tennessee (Dec. 30) to name just a few.

An experimental rule to be applied during exhibition play will involve the continued effort to examine the distance of the three-point line. The Womens Basketball Rules Committee has requested institutions to record shooting percentages from both the mens and womens lines from one home exhibition game. This information will provide the committee with significant data on how many three-pointers are actually being taken from behind both the mens and womens line. Conference play will feature key matchups as teams vie to win a conference championship and continue to build a resume worthy of earning their way into the championship field. The 64-team womens tournament field will be announced Monday, March 14 on ESPN. First- and second-round sites include Albuquerque, New Mexico; Columbus, Ohio; Durham, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Salt Lake City, Utah; Spokane, Washington; Stanford, California; University Park, Pennsylvania; Auburn, Alabama; Charlottesville, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; College Park, Maryland; Shreveport, Louisiana; Storrs, Connecticut; Waco, Texas; and Wichita, Kansas, with games set for March 19-22. The four regional sites will be Dayton, Ohio; Spokane, Washington; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Dallas, Texas on March 26-29. The Womens Final Four will be April 3 and 5, 2011 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Tickets for all sites can be purchased by going to www.ncaa.com/tickets.

The womens bracket is constructed by using the committees principles and procedures, which are located at www.ncaa.com/finalfour. Members of the 2010-11 Division I Womens Basketball Committee include chair Marilyn McNeil of Monmouth University. She is joined on the committee by Sybil Blalock of Mercer University, Greg Christopher of Bowling Green State University, Leslie Claybrook of Rice University, Rich Ensor of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Heather Gores of Gonzaga University, Dru Hancock of the Big 12 Conference, Carolayne Henry of the Mountain West Conference, Chris Massaro of Middle Tennessee State and Kathy Meehan of St. Johns University (New York). For the ninth consecutive year, ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast all 63 games of the 2011 Division I Womens Basketball Championship. The network will offer whip-around-style coverage in high definition. This marks the 16th straight year (since 1996) that ESPN will serve as the championships exclusive television home.

Before teams start dancing their way through NCAA March Madness®, they will have a little fun with Midnight Madness and the practices this week. The journey down the Road to the Womens Final Four® begins in October with this tradition that started nearly 40 years ago when Lefty Driesell had his University of Maryland mens team go for a run on the campus track minutes after midnight on the first day of allowable practices. Approximately 3,000 fans attended the event and it became a tradition that spread across the country and now features a variety of activities to entertain thousands of mens and womens basketball fans. In addition to ESPNU coverage, many of the practices are televised live locally and carried live via video streaming across the Internet.

About the NCAA and Division I Womens Basketball

The NCAA is a membership-led nonprofit association of colleges and universities committed to supporting academic and athletic opportunities for more than 400,000 student-athletes at more than 1,000 member colleges and universities. Each year, more than 54,000 student-athletes compete in NCAA championships in Divisions I, II and III sports. Visit www.ncaa.org and www.ncaa.com for more details about the Association, its goals and members and corporate partnerships that help support programs for student-athletes.

For the latest news in regard to the Womens Final Four, visit www.ncaa.com/finalfour. The NCAA, Final Four, March Madness and Midnight Madness owned or licensed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. All other trademarks are licensed by their respective owners.