LINCOLN — Nebraska will waste little time trying to capitalize on the new downtown Lincoln arena that opens next year.
Marc Boehm, NU associate athletic director, said Tuesday that the school plans to bid soon for Pinnacle Bank Arena to host a first- and second-round subregional during the 2014 NCAA women's basketball tournament. Subregionals consist of 16 four-team pods hosted on or near campus sites. Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum has been a frequent host.
“We feel very confident,” Boehm said of Nebraska's chances.
The arena opens in fall 2013. The 2014 tournament is the first in which it'd be eligible to host.
Boehm said he expects the Husker women — a No. 6 seed in the 2012 tournament — to be “very strong” for the next two years. The NCAA also likes to reward programs with new arenas and a history of good fan support, Boehm said. NU averaged 4,597 per game last year and nearly 6,400 for Big Ten games. Nebraska's women hosted an NCAA tournament game in 1993 at the Devaney Center.
The NCAA should open its bidding window in early- to mid-October, Boehm said, with a three-month evaluation process after that.
NU does not plan to bid right now for the NCAA men's tournament, which Boehm said requires a minimum of 16,000 seats.
“And that number is going up all the time,” he said.
Pinnacle Bank Arena is slated to hold 15,959, Boehm said, though NU can explore ways to increase the capacity should it bid for the men's tournament. Lincoln would also have to meet minimum needs for hotel rooms. Omaha's CenturyLink Center has twice hosted early-round NCAA games in the past five years. The Devaney Center hosted early-round games in 1980, '84 and '88.
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Both the men's and women's teams continue to hunt for nonconference opponents to open the arena against next fall. Boehm said the men are focusing on “Big 12 teams, high-caliber Missouri Valley and high-caliber mid-major” teams.
Nebraska considered trying to move its annual contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to the season opener, but the Big Ten informed Boehm on Tuesday that Challenge games are on a fixed date and can't be mixed and matched.
The women have a “wider cast,” Boehm said, for their first opponent in the new arena and are conducting more of a national search. Again an option could be a team from the Big 12, which has won three national titles since 2005.
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