Are home court NCAA tournament games a good approach to help women's basketball grow?

Third-seeded Louisville will be hosting a regional in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, quite a consolation for getting a lower seed than they wanted. - Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past two days, we've been having NCAA women's basketball bloggers from around the SB Nation network discuss topics related to the 2014 NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. In our final installment today, we gather opinions on whether having tournament games on teams' home courts is a good approach to helping women's basketball grow.

Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star summarized the reason for the NCAA's controversial decision for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament to hold games on teams' home sites, even when lower-seeded teams could potentially gain home court advantage against a higher seed.

Beginning next season, the top 16 seeds of the 64-team tournament will have the opportunity to bid to host games in the first and second rounds. The NCAA has been using predetermined sites since 2004 but is changing formats, mainly to help increase attendance, Henry said.

Nebraska played last weekend in Los Angeles, where the two sessions drew paltry crowds of 1,941 and 973...Beginning next season, the NCAA will return to neutral, off-campus sites for regional games. Two will be played in NBA arenas in Oklahoma City and Sacramento, Calif., and others in Albany, N.Y., and Greensboro, N.C.

It's about selling tickets and creating a better atmosphere for the championship tournament...but is it fair?

For our final college blogger roundtable of this year, I asked our panel from yesterday's post about their thoughts. The panel (with link to their women's basketball section and site Twitter account):

The question: The NCAA chose to have the women's tournament on teams' home courts and three teams in the Sweet 16 will be hosting a regional (Louisville, Notre Dame, and Stanford). In 2015, the first two rounds again will be played on campus sites with the top-16 seeded teams in the tournament hosting the sub-regionals and regionals occurring on neutral sites. What do you think of this approach to helping women's basketball grow?

TC: Reporters asked both Brenda Frese and Karen Aston this question. They both said campus sites for the first two rounds and neutral for the regionals. Neither feels the women's game has reached the point of having all neutral sites but both also think this year's set up is less than optimal. Not only would I defer to them but I agree with them.

GM: From our perspective at South Carolina, this rules change is great. Because of the NCAA's boycott of the state of South Carolina, premised on the state's insistence on flying the Confederate Flag on State House grounds, USC hasn't been able to submit bids to serve as a host site in recent years. However, next year, USC will be eligible to host under the new rules. This rules change removes a significant disadvantage to our program's success in the tournament. The return of post-season women's basketball to our state will likely increase fan interest in the sport. [For more on how South Carolina fans at Garnet and Black Attack think about the confederate flag issue, check out this past post about Dawn Staley's decision to stay.]

BG: No team has the right to play on their homecourt for a regional. It is not fair to the other three teams in that regional. I am happy the NCAA is going back to their roots with the top-16 seeded teams hosting on campus sites in the early rounds and am in favor of regionals on neutral sites. However, I would go one step further. I believe Geno Auriemma may have said this - set up a rotation and make five cities host the regionals and Final Four for the next five years. That way, each city can make it its own; they can promote it and market it within their cities throughout the year. The hosts can make the place special for those four teams and their fans. This is how they really grow the game in respect to attendance at regional sites.

DH: If you're going to use home courts, use the top seeded teams' courts. It's what every other sports league does with home advantage (NFL, NHL, NBA, etc.). That, and it nullifies the need for UConn to bid for "neutral sites" in various arenas within spitting distance of Storrs. Seriously, they're the WBB equivalent of Florida football when it comes to the prospect of leaving their own state. There has to be a term for it. Otherstateophobia?

JH: There is no ideal solution to the chicken and egg problem of needing women's basketball to grow enough to put everything in neutral sites, and while I want fan support to grow, getting to neutral sites for all games would mean I wouldn't be able to go to tourney games like I did the past 3 years. The new system of top seeds hosting is fairer in principle, but may run into problems due to the venues needing to be reserved way in advance of Selection Monday. This happened to Florida in 1994, when a Rod Stewart concert forced them to move to Texas A&M, where the underdog Aggies knocked out the Gators.

CP: Depends on the size of the regional arenas. I think it's a long-term positive thing provided the venues can sell out and be loud. I'm assuming that would happen, but if this ends up with any game being hosted in the Georgia Dome--a black hole of good basketball--I take this back entirely.

Big thanks to our panel for taking the time to answer these questions. For more on the tournament, check out our 2014 NCAA Tournament section.

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