NCAA women’s tournament returns to Saturday start

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament is reverting to its old format.

The tournament will have first-round games on Saturday and Sunday this season a year after moving them up a day to begin on Friday. Regional semifinals will also be on Saturday and Sunday.

”The committee made the day shift change in response to a significant amount of feedback from stakeholders in the game looking to improve in-person attendance and improve television ratings, without sacrificing one for the other,” said women’s basketball oversight committee chair Jean Lenti Ponsetto. ”Along with these changes, we will continue to conduct a strategic format review.”

The move to begin the tournament on Friday was originally made to help improve attendance, which had become stagnant over the past few years. The change in days and the top 16 seeds hosting lifted attendance to its third-highest total since 2004, but viewership on ESPN was down.

While the first four rounds are changing back their start days, the NCAA decided to keep its Final Four in a Sunday-Tuesday format for next season. The 2017 Final Four in Dallas was going to be played with a Friday-Sunday format for the first since 2003 when the NCAA went to its current model. This season’s national semifinals in Indianapolis were going to be the last played on Sunday.