Rupp Arena Chosen to Host Three Straight NCAA Tournament Regionals
LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the first time since the women’s basketball Final Four in 1986, Rupp Arena and the University of Kentucky have been selected to host the NCAA regional tournament in 2016, 2017 and 2018 for women’s basketball, the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee has announced.
In 2016, Bridgeport, Conn. (Webster Bank Arena), Dallas, Texas (American Airlines Center), Lexington (Rupp Arena) and Sioux Falls, S.D. (Denny Sanford Premier Center) will serve as the four regional sites March 25-28.
In 2017, Bridgeport (Webster Bank Arena) and Lexington (Rupp Arena) will again host, joined by Oklahoma City (Chesapeake Energy Arena) and Stockton (Stockton Arena) March 24-27.
In 2018, Lexington will again play host at Rupp Arena, joined by Albany, N.Y. (Times Union Center), Kansas City, Mo. (Sprint Center) and Spokane, Wash. (Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena), with regional play taking place March 23-26.
“I think it’s exciting for a number of reasons,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “No. 1, I think it’s very smart by the NCAA because I think with this much time to prepare we can get the community and really get people behind it. I’ve always thought Lexington was exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a downtown arena, and I think the fans are really going to enjoy downtown Lexington. With it being three years in a row, I’ve always thought that was smart to try to build an event in the community, and try to get that community to buy into it no matter who’s playing. We certainly want to be playing in the regionals and we want to be there, but if you take the Kentucky part out of it I think it’s still going to be a really great event.”
It will mark the first time Rupp Arena will host a round of the women’s basketball championship since Jody Conradt and the Texas Longhorns won the 1986 national championship in the building 29 years ago. Last season, Memorial Coliseum was the site for the NCAA First and Second Rounds. Kentucky earned its school-record fifth consecutive bid to the Big Dance and was able to play the first two rounds on its home court. The Wildcats advanced to their third straight Sweet 16 by defeating Wright State and Syracuse in Memorial. The Wildcats could possibly play in Rupp Arena for the regional tournament in 2016, 2017 and 2018 if it were to receive a bid to the tournament and win the first two rounds. The Wildcats play just one game a year in the downtown venue, therefore it is considered a neutral court.
“Clearly an important step for our women’s basketball program,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “It gives us a pathway, if we take care of our business, to Final Fours for three straight years and we’re excited about that. The opportunity to play in a venue we’re familiar with and have a chance to get to three straight Final Fours is really special. There are many programs in the last 15-20 years that have built pathways to Final Fours through venues they’re familiar with. We hope this is something special for our program in terms of us being able to generate deep championship runs we all dream of. It’s another opportunity for us to showcase Lexington and the University of Kentucky and I hope it generates the path for us that allows us to experience Final Fours.”
UK is 23-13 all-time in Rupp Arena after upsetting No. 8/9 Baylor, 74-64, on Monday, Nov. 17. The Wildcats have never played an NCAA championship game in Rupp.
Ticket information will be announced at a later date.
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