If the Oregon or Oregon State women’s basketball teams make it to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament this spring, they will take the court inside an NCAA bubble of sorts with one geographical site. San Antonio is the likely landing spot.
The move was made Monday in an effort to ensure the safest possible environment for college athletes and officials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA will stage the women’s tournament at one site, similar to that of the men’s tournament which is expected to be held in Indianapolis.
The women’s Final Four was already set for San Antonio in 2021, but preliminary talks have begun for the entire 64-team tournament to be held at The Alamo.
"Conducting the championship in one geographic region allows for more planning and execution of safeguards that provide potential benefits for promoting the health and safety of student-athletes, the NCAA membership and all individuals involved in the championship," NCAA women's basketball committee chair and senior deputy athletic director at Duke Nina King said in a statement. "By making this difficult decision now, it allows for an earlier opportunity to work proactively with local public health officials within the host communities and ensures that the identified guidelines and protocols are considered for a more controlled environment."
In previous years, the Moda Center has served as a site for both the men's and women’s Division I Portland Regional. Portland was not a site slated to be played this season. Spokane, Wash., was initially scheduled to hold one of the regionals on March 27 and March 29, 2021.
Last season, the Oregon Ducks led by 2020 WNBA Draft picks Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satou Sabally were heavy favorites to make a run for the program’s first national championship.
The team had won 19 games in a row and took home both Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles before March Madness was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic. Oregon went 11-2 against teams ranked in the final AP poll and 12-1 against teams ranked at the time of the games, including 7-1 against top-10 opponents. The Ducks finished No. 2 in the final AP poll.
Oregon State stars Mikayla Pivec and Destiny Slocum led the Beavers to a 23-9 record in the highly-competitive Pac-12 Conference. Oregon State finished the 2019-20 season at No. 14 in the final AP Poll after starting at No. 7 and rising as high as No. 3 in the nation. The Beavers had the potential to be a one-seed in the tournament but ultimately fell short of that goal with a 10-8 record in the Pac-12.
Both teams currently rank in the 2020-21 AP poll: Oregon lands at No. 8 and Oregon State is tied for 15th.
Championship playing dates and venues are still to be finalized, but the NCAA women’s basketball tournament is expected to occur during the previously announced championship window in late March and early April.