Williams Arena to host NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball tournament

For the second-consecutive year women’s basketball fans will be able to watch NCAA tournament games at Williams Arena.

On Thursday, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee selected Minnesota as one of eight regional sites for first and second round 2005 NCAA Championship games.

“It’s a tremendous acknowledgement and recognition of our women’s basketball program, coach (Pam) Borton and her staff, our team and the quality program we have,” said Associate Athletics Director Marc Ryan, who coordinates NCAA tournaments for the University.

Last season, the NCAA used 16 regional sites. Each site hosted two first-round and one second-round game.

Starting next year, the NCAA will use eight regional sites, meaning the University will host twice as many games.

“It’s double the fun for our fans,” Ryan said.

Williams Arena will host four first-round games on March 19 and two second-round games on March 21. The first-round games will be broken into separate afternoon and evening sessions, each with two games.

Attendance at last season’s regional in Minnesota ranked second among the 16 sites.

First-round games drew 12,357 fans and the second-round game between Minnesota and Kansas State drew 13, 425.

“The atmosphere in Williams Arena and the crowd support for women’s basketball here in Minnesota that NCAA officials have seen is sensational,” Ryan said.

Hosting the tournament also ensures the Gophers will play at home in the first two rounds if they qualify for next year’s tournament.

“I think it’s a great advantage any time we can play in Williams Arena, especially being able to get out of our region and into the Sweet 16,” Borton said. “I think we’ve only lost two games in the last two years in Williams Arena.”

The NCAA and the eight competing teams all receive blocks of reserved tickets for the games. Priority then goes to Gophers season-ticket holders. Tickets go on sale to the general public in September.