Seattle a positive new home for Pac-12 women's basketball tournament
This has been a season of firsts for the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament.
The conference tournament has moved to Seattle, and for the first time, every game will be televised.
“Any time you get something new, it can be exciting,” UA head coach Niya Butts said. “Seattle’s obviously a great town, real big basketball community.”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Pac-12 schools place a “high priority on women’s basketball.”
Seattle's Space Needle is centerpiece to the skyline view from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill. (Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
“That was reflected, for us, in the priorities and investments and decisions we made related to making the change to the tournament and having it stand alone from the men’s and investing in a new market. But also, importantly, from a television perspective,” Scott said.
The tournament will be played in KeyArena, in the Seattle Center portion of the Emerald City.
“We’re looking forward to, certainly, having the tournament here in Seattle,” Washington head coach Kevin McGuff said. “This is an outstanding community that supports women’s athletics, specifically women’s basketball, and I think it’s going to be a wonderful experience for our student athletes. I’m excited for our team to be able to play here at KeyArena.”
KeyArena is home to the Seattle Storm of the WNBA and Seattle University’s men’s basketball team. The Seattle Supersonics played in KeyArena before moving to Oklahoma City.
“I’m hoping that we get those same basketball lovers to come out and check us out,” Butts said.
For the first time, the entire tournament will be on television, with the first round, quarterfinals and semifinals on the Pac-12 Network and the championship on ESPN2.
“Clearly, women’s basketball is being prioritized,” Scott said. “That’s something right at the top of our priorities list.”
In 2002, the Pac-10 Tournament was held in Eugene, Ore., on UO’s campus.
Then, in 2003, it moved to San Jose, Calif., where it remained until 2008.
In 2009, it was moved to Los Angeles to run alongside the men’s tournament, which was held there from 2002 to 2012.
In 2009 and 2010, the tourney was at USC’s Galen Center, and in 2011 and 2012, it was played at the Galen Center and Staples Center, where the men’s tourney was.
Attendance was 7,720 for five sessions last year, as high as 2,901 for the second day of games and it was 1,845 for the championship. The best attendance was 27,415 for five sessions in Oregon in 2002.
“I’m confident that it’s going to be a lot better than [what] we witnessed in L.A.,” Scott said. “How big, how strong, remains to be seen. Obviously, this is uncharted territory and a new venture.”
Another new addition to the tournament is the commissioner’s flipping the bracket to feature “key matchups in the evening session.” Arizona’s game against Utah on Thursday was originally going to be at 8:30 p.m. PT, but was moved to the afternoon so the Washington schools could play at night.
Scott said he isn’t sure yet what the attendance numbers will look like.
“There is strong interest,” Scott said. “I don’t know about a number, but we are pleased with the buzz.”
Washington is hoping for a home court advantage.
“I hope, generally, the tournament is supported by the great fans here in Seattle,” McGuff said. “I think it would be a terrific thing for our student athletes to have that type of environment, and within that I hope people come out and watch us Thursday night versus Oregon.”
Butts joked that not everything is great about Seattle.
“Let’s just say the weather is not sunny and warm in Seattle, but I think it’ll be a good tournament,” Butts said. “I’m looking forward to it.”