The weekend of Mar. 18th is something Arizona Wildcat fans should mark on their calendars. That’s when McKale Center should host the Women’s NCAA Tournament opening rounds for the first time since Mar. 15, 1998. The close calls and disappointments should finally end for Tucson’s team almost exactly 24 years since Adia Barnes led her team to the Sweet Sixteen as a player.
Arizona certainly didn’t make it easy on itself. At one point, the Wildcats were projected by the NCAA Tournament selection committee as a No. 1 seed. Then, the questionable losses started to pile up, Arizona’s NET started to drop, and the opportunity to host the opening rounds of the tournament started to look less assured.
Arizona and its fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Unless something dramatic happens, the Wildcats will land in the Wichita Region as the No. 3 seed. The selection committee announced its final projected seedings prior to Selection Sunday on Monday evening.
The other top seeds in Wichita are No. 1 Louisville, No. 2 Baylor, and No. 4 Iowa. Iowa jumped into the Top 16 after not being in the group when it was last released
Arizona is the No. 11 team overall according to the committee. That means it would need to drop more than five spots in the committee’s esteem in order to lose the ability to host the opening rounds.
The only other Pac-12 team in the Top 16 is Stanford. The Cardinal are a No. 1 seed. They are considered the second-best team by the committee, landing just behind No. 1 overall seed South Carolina. Arizona’s Pac-12 foe will be placed in the Spokane Regional if nothing changes.
Arizona’s placement is evidence that the selection committee considers much more than just the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). The Wildcats are a full five spots higher in the committee’s eye at No. 11 than they are in NET (No. 16).
The Wildcats and Cardinal head to Las Vegas to play in the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament prior to returning home for the NCAAs. Arizona will tip off against the winner of No. 5 Colorado vs No. 11 Washington at 1 p.m MST on Thursday, Mar. 3 at the Michelob ULTRA Arena (Mandalay Bay Events Center) in Las Vegas, Nev. Stanford will face the winner of No. 8 Oregon State vs No. 9 ASU at 3:30 p.m. MST on the same day.