The NCAA has long waffled in its stance on game locations during the women’s basketball tournament. This season, they have effectively given a goliath Connecticut Huskies team home court advantage all the way through the regional tournament round.
The NCAA scheduled the round to be played in Bridgeport, just an hour and a half away from the Huskies’ home court of Storrs, Conn. When UConn learned this, it bought an additional 500 tickets in excess of the 100 the NCAA automatically allots to competing teams. Huskies fans, though, also hustled and deftly bought out all the tickets to the regional round.
This was before the tournament bracket had even been unveiled.
“Knowing that the NCAA allotment would not satisfy our demand, UConn secured as many additional tickets as we could from the arena, an additional 500,” the university said in a note on its website. “Unfortunately, our demand exceeded the supply.”
Now, a team like Maryland, just a six-hour drive from Bridgeport, can’t have fan support for its Sweet 16 matchup against Oregon because, well, there aren’t any tickets. And a team like UCLA, slated to play against UConn on “neutral” territory, is hardly getting a “neutral” game.
Oregon, traveling across the country for its Sweet 16 showdown, has offered to sell its tickets, but the price point is steep: a $265 face value plus an additional $125 donation to the university’s athletic department.
Other tickets are available on the secondary market, but according to The Washington Post, those are worse seats at a higher price and are often scattered throughout the crowd as opposed to seats grouped together in a section.
It was a smart move by Huskies fans to buy the tickets in advance.
UConn is on a historic pace this season, having just won its 109th consecutive game dating back to 2014. The program is a win away from notching the longest winning streak in the history of sports.
The Huskies are coached by shoo-in Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma and boast a roster that features two players averaging 20 points (one of which hit 10 threes without missing) and two players averaging 13 points per game.
Anything short of a national championship would be considered a disappointment of monumental proportions.
But the NCAA is at fault here.
UConn was a lock to make a deep tournament run this season. And further solidifying that certainty was the NCAA cementing home court advantage for its entire tournament play.
For the first two games of the women’s NCAA tournament, games are played at the home gym of the higher seed. UConn, which holds the country’s best record, rightfully played at its home court.
But the games following those two are supposed to be played at neutral regional locations. A small loophole allowed the Huskies to play just a few bus stops up the road, taking their rabid fan base with them.
Now, three other teams have to suffer.