UCLA coach Cori Close gestures during the first half of...

UCLA coach Cori Close gestures during the first half of the team's first-round college basketball game against California Baptist in the women's NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Ryan Sun

LOS ANGELES — JuJu Watkins phenomenal freshman season at Southern California and UCLA's duo of Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice has helped raised the stature of women's basketball in Los Angeles.

However, fans who would like to be at both team's games on Monday will not get that opportunity.

UCLA’s contest against Creighton tips off at 5:30 p.m. PDT, while USC and Kansas is the final game of the night tipping off 90 minutes later.

Instead of staggering the days for the two Los Angeles sites on the opening weekend, the women's NCAA Tournament selection committee scheduled both to be played on Saturday and Monday.

“My first glance (at the bracket), it seemed a little bit shortsighted to me,” UCLA coach Cori Close said.

Both teams were able to host first- and second-round games after posting great regular seasons.

The Trojans (27-5) won the Pac-12 Tournament and are a top seed in the NCAA field for the first time since 1986. It is marks the first time in 15 years they are hosting tournament games.

Southern California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb stands on the sideline...

Southern California head coach Lindsay Gottlieb stands on the sideline during a first-round college basketball game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the women's NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

USC’s return to prominence has been due to Watkins, who was a first-team, All-America selection earlier this week after being second in the nation in scoring at 27.0 points per game.

The Bruins (26-6) are a second seed, which is the highest in school history. It is the second straight year they have been selected as one of the hosts of the first two rounds.

UCLA also has some star power of its own. Rice, a sophomore point guard, will be featured on ESPN's “Full Court Press” series, which has followed three women's players during the season. Osborne, who has one assist shy of a triple double on Saturday, will play her final home game on Monday.

There wasn't a scheduling conflict on Saturday. USC had an afternoon tipoff against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UCLA's first-round game against California Baptist started a couple hours after the Trojans game finished. Even with the usual hassles of weekend traffic on Los Angeles interstates, there was enough time to make the 14-mile commute from the Galen Center to Pauley Pavilion.

Southern California guard JuJu Watkins, left, and guard McKenzie Forbes...

Southern California guard JuJu Watkins, left, and guard McKenzie Forbes watch during a first-round college basketball game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the women's NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

That will not be the case on Monday night. Even taking a time-saving route sounding like something out of the Saturday Night Live sketch “The Californians” wouldn't help.

“To me there’s got to be reasonings. I know they made a shift to try and get the No. 1 overall seed who is South Carolina to make sure they have the most rest heading into a potential Final Four, so maybe something has to do with when people have to play their other regional,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I really don’t know. It’s certainly a bummer for people in Southern California who would want to go watch both games.

“I think there’s enough energy and excitement around here to have people show up for both, but I think in a perfect world we would all want to either be on different days or to be scheduled with enough time in between that people could see both.”

Both sites had great crowds on Saturday. The afternoon doubleheader at USC had 8,386 while the evening session at UCLA drew 8,841. Trying to duplicate those same figures on Monday night might be difficult, especially with both programs playing at the same time.

With both teams returning the bulk of their rosters next year, as well as bringing in talented recruiting classes, Close hopes that the committee would look at possibly scheduling on different days should both schools continue as hosts.

“When we’re trying to think about growing the game, I think that decision makers in with ESPN, for instance, or with the NCAA Tournament, bracketing and scheduling, I think to keep those things in mind are really important,” she said.

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