64 NCAA DI teams to battle it out in San Antonio

The 2021 NCAA DI Women's Basketball Championship will take place at five venues in the San Antonio area

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The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee officially announced today that the 64-team championship tournament will take place in San Antonio and the surrounding region. The tournament is set to kick off on March 21, culminating in the championship game on April 4.

“San Antonio was already poised to successfully host the NCAA Women’s Final Four this year, but to bring all 64 teams in this prestigious championship tournament to our city is a remarkable opportunity for our event and hospitality industry,” said San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg on Friday. “I can assure the NCAA and the teams we will deliver the best, safest and most memorable experience possible.”

The tournament will feature six rounds, which will be played using five venues and six courts in San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos, Texas. The Alamodome houses two of these courts.

Though Austin is about 80 miles from San Antonio and San Marcos is 50, games will only be played in those cities during the first two days of the tournament. Then play will shift entirely to the venues in San Antonio. Here’s a breakdown of the dates and locations for each round:

  • First round: March 21-22 at the Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena (at St. Mary’s University), Frank Erwin Center (Texas), University Events Center (Texas State) and the UTSA Convocation Center

  • Second round: March 23-24 at the Alamodome, Bill Greehey Arena and the UTSA Convocation Center

  • Sweet 16: March 27-28 at the Alamodome

  • Elite Eight: March 29-30 at the Alamodome

  • Final Four: April 2 and 4 at the Alamodome

The 64-team bracket will be unveiled at 7 p.m. ET on Selection Monday, March 15, on ESPN. Official team travel parties with a maximum of 34 people will start arriving in San Antonio on March 16 and all teams will be housed in hotels in San Antonio and throughout Bexar County.

It is worth noting that Austin is not within Bexar County. This means that the first-round teams that will be playing at the Frank Erwin Center will have to travel nearly three hours round-trip to get to and from their games. Obviously this isn’t ideal, but it’s likely the best solution to the unique pandemic-induced problem.

The local organizing committees in San Antonio are fully confident they can host a safe and successful championship tournament in their region. Diamond Health will be providing testing during the tournament within the controlled environment for players, coaches and staff.

Nina King, senior deputy athletics director and chief of staff at Duke and chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, acknowledged the unique challenge this season presents but believes the tournament will be an unforgettable experience for these athletes.

“Like the 2020-21 season, we know the championship will have its challenges, but we feel we have the necessary structure and safeguards in place to ensure a quality student-athlete championship experience. We appreciate all the work by those in San Antonio and by the NCAA staff to get to this point. We feel certain that one geographic region allows us to focus on the potential benefits of conducting certain safety measures in a controlled environment with competition and practice venues, medical resources and lodging for teams and officials all within close proximity.”

Now, the question you’ve all been waiting for: Will there be fans at these games?

No official decision has been made yet about whether fans will be allowed to fill the stands at the tournament. If non-cardboard fans end up being admitted, the attendance policy will follow the established local guidelines. Texas governor Greg Abbott’s latest executive order said indoor and outdoor sporting events can operate with a reduced 50% limit. The occupancy limits in this order went into effect on Dec. 29, 2020.

If fans can’t come see the games in person, fear not. For the 19th consecutive year, ESPN will broadcast all 63 games of the tournament and you’ll be able to catch them on ESPN networks as well as online via the ESPN app.

Local organizing committees believe they can pull off this historic championship tournament in a safe manner. And that’s a testament to the tenacity of the sports world right now, for better or worse.

“We are extremely honored that the NCAA has chosen San Antonio and the surrounding region for this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the entire NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship,” said Jenny Carnes, San Antonio Sports senior vice president and chief operating officer. “The confidence they have in San Antonio speaks volumes about our team, experience and what we can offer the event to ensure a safe and successful tournament.”