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NCAA expands women's college basketball tournament to 68 teams

NCAA expands women's college basketball tournament to 68 teams
The NCAA women's college basketball tournament previously took place with 64 teams. The Baylor Lady Bears (pictured) won the tourney in 2019 before Stanford captured the 2021 championship. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The NCAA announced Wednesday that the women's college basketball tournament will expand to a 68-team field, up from 64, beginning this season.

The organization also said the women's selection show will take place Sunday, March 13, on ESPN. The annual show had been held on Mondays since 2006, but it now shifts back to Sunday to accommodate the extra games, which will be played March 16-17.

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"This was another important step in providing additional championship participation opportunities for women's basketball student-athletes," Nina King, chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Committee and athletic director at Duke, said in a statement.

"The committee was in support of implementing this as soon as possible and were pleased that the expanded championship field will be in play immediately for the upcoming championship and beyond."

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The last four at-large schools and teams seeded 65 through 68 will take part in the opening-round games before the start of the first and second rounds of the tournament, which is set to begin March 18-19.

The top 16 seeds will host first- and second-round matchups. In the 2022 tournament, the four new opening-round contests will take place at four of those 16 sites. Beginning in 2023, the opening round will be staged at a neutral site to be determined.

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The men's college basketball tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011, resulting in the First Four. The First Four precedes the start of the first round and is typically played in Dayton, Ohio.

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The NCAA women's tourney started in 1982 with 32 schools and expanded over the years until reaching 64 teams in 1994.

After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the men's and women's tournaments in 2020, the Stanford Cardinal defeated the Arizona Wildcats to win the 2021 tournament. Baylor captured the 2019 women's championship with a victory over Notre Dame.

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