Rule change to allow women's basketball to host NCAA tournament games

Coach Staley looks to have garnet-and-black clad supporters behind her in NCAA tournament games beginning next season. - Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

The new rules will allow the Lady Gamecocks to begin hosting tournament games as soon as next season.

One of the major differences between the men's and women's NCAA tournaments is the role of home-court advantage.  While the men's tournament specifically disallows teams from playing games on their home floor (unless that court hosts the Final Four), the women's tournament - for attendance reasons - actively seeks to allow teams to play in their own gym.

The NCAA solicits bids before the season and, as long as that school qualifies for the tournament, typically locates the team there, no matter their seed.  This leads to some unfortunate situations where a No. 7 seed receives a home game against a much higher seed.  This also differs from the way the association awards postseason bids in other sports.  For instance, in college baseball, hosting awards are granted by merit.

That changes beginning next season.  The NCAA announced that, starting in 2014-15, the top 16 seeds will host the first- and second-round games in the tournament.  That means that, if South Carolina puts itself in the same position it's likely going to be in this season, post-season basketball will return to the Palmetto State for the first time since 2002, when Greenville hosted first- and second-round men's tournament games.  That's also the last year the women's tournament came to South Carolina, when Susan Walvius' team ultimately went to the Elite Eight before bowing out to No. 1 seed Duke.

Due to the NCAA's continued boycott of awarding postseason games to locations in the state of South Carolina - premised on the state's continued insistence on flying the Confederate flag on State House grounds - the Lady Gamecocks are ineligible to submit a bid to host tournament games before the season.  Thus, unless they get sent to Seattle or Los Angeles, or Toledo this year (the only 3 of the 16 first-round sites without a natural host team), the Lady Gamecocks will likely face that unfairness head on, although the latest ESPN Bracketology has them playing in Seattle.  And given that home-court advantage can be worth 3-4 points, that's an advantage no team wants to give away in postseason play.

The ban on NCAA hosting frustrated Staley, and led some to speculate it may lead her to decide to leave USC for a school where she could host NCAA games, giving her and her teams a better chance at winning a national championship.  That's one less concern for Coach Staley and her program going forward, and removes a considerable barrier to USC potentially winning championships under her watch.

The Lady Gamecocks return to the floor on Thursday evening as they travel to Lexington, KY to take on the Lady Wildcats.

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