Road to Women's Hoops Final Four coming thru South Bend: ND to host NCAA Regionals

The Irish women's basketball team may not have to leave the state of Indiana to book its ticket to a 4th straight Final Four.

Notre Dame is one of four schools selected to hosts regionals for the upcoming season's NCAA Tournament. Games will be played at the 9,149-seat Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on either March 29 & 31 or March 30 & April 1, with exact dates and ticket availability for those contests to be released at a later date.

Unlike the men's tournament, women's teams will be permitted to play on their home floor in regionals. Schools hosting regionals was a change for the upcoming year in an effort to maximize attendance for games during the NCAA Tournament.

Joining Notre Dame as host sites for regional games in the 2014 NCAA Championship are Lincoln, Neb. (Pinnacle Bank Arena); Louisville, Ky. (KFC Yum! Center); and Stanford, Calif. (Maples Pavilion). The 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four will be held April 6 & 8 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

Purdue's Mackey Arena is one of the host sites for the first two rounds, meaning if Notre Dame is a top seed they will likely end up there before hosting regionals--should they advance.

Also on Wednesday, the NCAA announced the host sites for early-round games in the 2014 NCAA Championship: (host school listed in parentheses): Ames, Iowa (Iowa State); Baton Rouge, La. (LSU); Chapel Hill, N.C. (North Carolina); College Park, Md. (Maryland); College Station, Texas (Texas A&M); Durham, N.C. (Duke); Iowa City, Iowa (Iowa); Knoxville, Tenn. (Tennessee); Lexington, Ky. (Kentucky); Los Angeles, Calif. (UCLA); Seattle, Wash. (Washington); Storrs, Conn. (Connecticut); Toledo, Ohio (Toledo); University Park, Pa. (Penn State); Waco, Texas (Baylor); and West Lafayette, Ind. (Purdue).

This will mark the second time in program history that Notre Dame has been chosen to host regional competition in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. On March 25 & 27, 1983 (the second year of the tournament’s existence), the NCAA Mideast Regional was played at Purcell Pavilion (then known simply as the Joyce Center) and featured Tennessee, Ole Miss, Indiana and Georgia competing for the right to go to the NCAA Women’s Final Four. Georgia emerged from the four-team field, defeating Tennessee, 67-63 in the Mideast Regional final.

With Wednesday’s selection, Notre Dame will be playing host to action in the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship for the ninth time, and the fourth time in six seasons. Most recently in March 2012, the Fighting Irish began their run to a second of three consecutive NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances with victories at Purcell Pavilion over Liberty (74-43) and California (73-62) in the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship's Raleigh Region.

In addition to the 1983 NCAA Mideast Regional, Notre Dame has been home to NCAA first- and second-round tournament action seven times (1994, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2012), with the Fighting Irish going 10-2 in those contests on the Purcell Pavilion hardwood, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2010 and 2012, reaching the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 2001 and 2012, winning their first national championship in ’01.

Notre Dame has been ranked in the Top 10 in the final NCAA attendance standings nine times in the past 13 seasons, including top-five finishes each of the past four seasons. Last year, the Fighting Irish set a school record for average attendance for the fourth year in a row at 8,979 fans per game (better than 98 percent of Purcell Pavilion’s official capacity), highlighted by a school-record 11 sellout crowds, including nine of their final 10 home games.

Historically, Purcell Pavilion also has been one of the top drawing sites for NCAA Championship games in recent seasons. The last time Notre Dame played host to first- and second-round games in 2012, it averaged 6,648 fans per session, the best two-day attendance average among the 16 preliminary round host sites in the 2012 tournament. Two years earlier in 2010, Notre Dame ranked second among the 16 first- and second-round host sites with 6,129 fans per session.

The Fighting Irish have four starters and nine monogram winners returning from last year’s team that went 35-2 and was ranked No. 2 in both major national polls at season’s end, swept both the BIG EAST Conference regular-season and tournament titles (a combined 19-0 record) and advanced to the NCAA Women’s Final Four for the third consecutive season, as well as the fifth time in program history. Notre Dame also welcomes a four-player incoming freshman class that has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation by multiple recruiting outlets.

The Fighting Irish will open their 2013-14 season with an exhibition game at 7 p.m. (ET) Oct. 30, playing host to California (Pa.) at Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame’s regular season slate gets underway at 1 p.m. (ET) Nov. 9, when the Fighting Irish welcome UNC Wilmington to Purcell Pavilion.

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