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UConn’s Geno Auriemma questions new NCAA Tournament format

(David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

UConn basketball coach Geno Auriemma is “not crazy about” the new regional format for the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies received the No. 2 seed in one of the two Seattle regionals. If UConn wins the first two rounds on its home court, the team would then travel to Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight – a long way from Storrs, Connecticut.

After Sunday’s bracket reveal, Auriemma called the potential cross-country trip a “surprise” for the Huskies.

“It was a little bit of a surprise that we’re going to Seattle, but you first have to win two games,” he said. “And regardless of what region you’re in, job number one is you have to win two games. And that’s no different than it is every other year.

“And every year people go, ‘Oh, that’s a tough bracket. Oh, that’s an easy bracket. Oh, that’s a tough matchup. Oh, that’s an easy matchup.’ And every year I say the same thing, ‘There are no easy games in the NCAA Tournament.’ Certainly, this year is no exception.”

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This year’s tournament features a new format, with the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games taking place at just two locations rather than four.

“It’s kind of like mini-Final Fours,” said Lisa Peterson, the chair of the Division I women’s basketball committee. “The really cool thing was having everybody there [in San Antonio]. And so that was where we knew that this would be a really great experience for all the student-athletes and teams and, also, the fans. You will know that there is a big women’s basketball tournament that’s happening there.”

One possible benefit of a two-site regional would be to make the sites more neutral rather than tilted in favor a team playing close to home, although this year South Carolina will be playing in Greenville for its regional.

“It starts to make sense to start having more neutral environments, locations,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “Definitely thinking if it’s more neutral, although I don’t feel like South Carolina is, but I definitely think for a lot of other teams it’ll be a good thing.”

Auriemma, though, remains unconvinced. 

“Me, personally, I’m not crazy about it,” Auriemma said about the new format. “They’re called regionals for a reason. You have them in each region and now they’re not. They shouldn’t call them regionals anymore. They should call them something different. And then, not that it matters because every team is in the same situation so I’m probably speaking for every coach, if you’re going to do it, why not have both of them in the middle of the country where everybody only has to go halfway.

“I understand, let’s try something different and think outside the box, all that other stuff. And if I was 35, I would say, ‘Wow, this is a great idea. Let’s try that.’ I’m not into new ideas at my age.”