Come for the outrage over the pathetic facilities inequity and the day-late, dollar-short NCAA apologies. Stay for the spectacular women’s basketball on tap in March Madness 2021.
The NCAA women’s basketball tournament — the counterpart to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — will crown a national champion for the first time since 2019 after last season’s edition was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 64-team tournament will be played in “bubble”-like conditions in the San Antonio area; the Final Four will be held at the Alamodome. The four regions are named after local landmarks: Alamo, River Walk, Hemisfair, Mercado.
Plenty of potential blockbuster showdowns and rivalry games loom in the bracket. UConn, the sport’s preeminent program, grabbed a No. 1 seed after finishing the regular season atop the women’s rankings behind freshman phenom Paige Bueckers; Baylor, technically the reigning national champion, is the No. 2 seed in that region. Stanford was slotted as the No. 1 overall seed. North Carolina State and South Carolina were awarded the other No. 1 seeds.
Here’s what you need to know to follow the tournament:
When is the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament?
The tournament begins Sunday, March 21 and culminates with the national championship game on April 4.
Here is the full schedule:
First Round (Round of 64): Sunday, March 21 and Monday, March 22
Second Round (Round of 32): Tuesday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 24
Sweet 16: Saturday, March 27 and Sunday, March 28
Elite Eight: Monday, March 29 and Tuesday, March 30
Final Four (national semifinals): Friday, April 2
National championship: Sunday, April 4
How can I watch the tournament?
Every tournament game will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ABC. The national semifinals and final will be broadcast on ESPN. Six games will air on broadcast TV on ABC: a first-round doubleheader on Sunday, March 21 (No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Middle Tennessee and No. 2 Baylor vs. No. 15 Jackson State) and Sweet 16 doubleheaders on Saturday, March 27 and Sunday, March 28.
All games are available through the ESPN app with valid cable credentials.
Where is it taking place this year?
The 2021 tournament is taking place on six courts at five venues around San Antonio, Texas, in a “bubble” of sorts meant to minimize team travel because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The primary venue is the Alamodome, which will feature two different courts in the opening rounds and will play host to the Final Four. Some first-round games will take place at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, and at the University Events Center in San Marcos, Texas.
Will there be fans and are tickets available?
From the Sweet Sixteen through the Final Four, a limited number of fans will be allowed inside the Alamodome. The building will be occupied up to 17 percent of capacity, including team personnel and guests. Tickets are still available.
Who are the teams and players to watch?
As many as seven teams were deserving of a No. 1 seed in this tournament.
No. 1 seed Stanford (25-2), led by do-everything guard Haley Jones, freshman unicorn Cameron Brink (a Curry family friend) and all-time winningest coach Tara VanDerveer, is the betting favorite.
No. 1 UConn (24-1), which will be without coach Geno Auriemma for at least the first two rounds, has high hopes of ending a title “drought” that dates back to 2016 thanks to must-see point guard Paige Bueckers.
Dawn Staley’s No. 1 South Carolina (22-4) would have been the favorite in 2020; the Gamecocks remain capable of going all the way with the sensational sophomore tandem of center Aliyah Boston and guard Zia Cooke.
No. 2 Baylor (25-2), riding a 17-game winning streak, is spearheaded by senior DiDi Richards, who was temporarily paralyzed after suffering a spinal injury during a preseason practice.
No. 2 Maryland (24-2) led by the nation in offense — by nearly five points — at 91.3 per game with sophomore guard Ashley Owusu at the helm.
No. 1 NC State (20-2) won the ACC tournament. No. 2 Texas A&M (23-2) finished first in the loaded SEC.
Are there any sleeper teams?
Try Arizona, No. 3 seed in the NC State-Texas A&M region, and its senior point guard Aari McDonald.
No. 4 Arkansas was the only team to beat UConn this season.
No. 5 Iowa could face UConn in the Sweet 16 — and counter Bueckers with its own supernova freshman point guard, Caitlin Clark, the nation’s leading scorer.
No. 6 Texas is powered by center Charli Collier, the likely No. 1 pick in next month’s WNBA draft.
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