MINNEAPOLIS - The best teams in women’s college basketball will likely come to Minneapolis 40 days from now, as the Target Center is the host for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
On Tuesday, representatives from the NCAA and big names in local basketball came together in downtown Minneapolis for a summit on leadership, and previewing the Women’s Final Four. Local figures in attendance included Lynx coach and GM Cheryl Reeve, Lynx guard and former University of Minnesota standout Rachel Banham and Lea B. Olsen, a former basketball standout and now broadcaster for high school tournaments who is also featured on Bally Sports North.
Former UConn star Rebecca Lobo, who won an NCAA title with a perfect season in 1995 capped off at the Target Center, led the panel. It's the latest big sporting showcase to come to Minneapolis after the men's Final 4, the Super Bowl and most recently, the NHL Winter Classic at Target Field.
"I think it’ll be huge. The one thing that we do well in Minnesota is we come out for big events. We like to hold big events, we do a great job of bringing events to Minnesota so I think people will come out," Olsen said. "I think we’re ready, we’re ready to have a lot of positive news to come to Minnesota. I can’t think of a better time and a better place for this to be happening."
The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will start with a field of 68 teams, and first four games played March 16-17. The first and second rounds will be March 18-21 at top-16 seeds.
The 68 teams will be narrowed to four regional champions. Those four teams and their fans will come to Minneapolis and Target Center, April 1-3, for the national semifinals and national title game. The hope is that one of those teams is the Connecticut Huskies, led by former Hopkins star Paige Bueckers. She suffered a knee injury that required surgery in mid-December, and was expected to be out about eight weeks. She suffered the injury in the final minute of regulation in a win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5.
Bueckers is expected to return soon, and the Huskies are 19-5 on the season, including 13-1 in league play. The Huskies are 14-4 since her injury.
The national semifinal and championship games will be played at Target Center, and there will be plenty going on in downtown Minneapolis around the weekend. The Minneapolis Convention Center will host a Fan Festival, there will be a Party on the Plaza outside Target Center, a free concert in downtown Minneapolis and other events around championship weekend. All events are free and open to the public.
"I’m just really excited for the games. Obviously I play basketball, so I just can’t wait to see the games. The best basketball you could be watching," Banham said.