Rule change gives top seed in NCAA women's tourney most rest for Final Four after Staley's criticism

CLEVELAND (AP) — The overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Women’s Tournament will get preferential treatment moving forward, a response to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley's concerns and criticism.

The Division I Women’s Basketball Committee voted unanimously Friday to place the tournament's top seed in a regional pod with game days on Friday and Sunday, ensuring the most rest possible for the No. 1 seed between the regional final and for the Women's Final Four.

Staley approached broadcast partner ESPN and NCAA officials about the issue at the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings in Destin, Florida, in May.

“It’s not that I’m a sore loser,” Staley said. "I think it’s great that almost 10 million viewers watched our sport. But you also have to break things down like you do with film. I broke our tournament down, where we were placed and things that we did over the course of a season. ... We were the No. 1 overall seed. If there were going to be some advantages and benefits, it should have come to us.”

Eventual national champion LSU and runner-up Iowa both had an extra day of rest compared to South Carolina, which suffered its first and only loss of the 2022-23 season to Iowa in Dallas. LSU beat Virginia Tech, which also had one less day to prepare.

“A key learning from our first season with the new format was we should reward the No. 1 overall seeded team by allowing that team the most possible rest time between the regional final and the Women’s Final Four,” said Lisa Peterson, chair of the committee and senior associate commissioner for sports management with the Pac-12 Conference. "We made that decision unanimously.”

The 2024 Women’s Final Four will be played April 5 and 7 in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.


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