The NCAA announced yesterday that Stanford, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Nebraska would be hosting the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds of the 2014 tournament. While I'm all for schools hosting the first two rounds, I think it's a terrible idea to have them host games later than that. One of the most frequent complaints about the current system is that it occasionally forces higher seeded teams to play on an opposing teams home court and I can only see this change making those complaints worse.
As I mentioned earlier, I like the idea of schools bidding for first and second round sites. It promotes upsets that can invigorate fanbases like Delaware's upset win over North Carolina while having relatively little impact on the overall result of the tournament. Chances are, if you can't beat a 6 seed on their home court, you're not winning the whole tournament. It rewards programs that make a commitment to their women's basketball programs and I think that is an inherently good thing.
The problem with this regional hosting change is that it can have a fairly major impact on tournament results and I would not be surprised if we saw a bit of that impact this year. All of the hosts are teams that I can see landing around the 2-4 seed area (there is some variation. I wouldn't be surprised if Stanford or Notre Dame got 1 seeds for example). I can't imagine that a hypothetically 1 seed Duke team would be very pleased if their tournament run ended with a 3 point loss to 3 seed Louisville on their home court.
As usual, Mechelle Voepel over at ESPN has an excellent article summarizing the problems with this new hosting format. Some interesting highlight's include Muffet McGraw and Jeff Walz speaking out against this change and their schools are hosting.
I understand that the NCAA is looking for a way for the women's tournament to be more successful from a financial standpoint, but as Muffet McGraw says, with this new change teams can "Buy your way into a final four." There's got to be a better solution to help the tournament remain financially viable while still maintaining it's integrity. Hopefully, the NCAA will figure that out quickly, but I won't hold my breath.