After Southern Utah heard its name called and found out their NCAA tournament draw which sent the Thunderbirds to South Bend, Indiana and a first round date with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame three other WAC teams heard their name called for other postseason tournaments on Sunday.
As a result of winning the WAC regular season championship, Southern Utah would’ve earned the WNIT automatic bid. However, thanks to the heroics of Cherita Daugherty in their quarterfinal win over New Mexico State and two convincing wins in the semis and finals there was no auto bid to the WNIT.
But, Stephen F. Austin, who was in the top-60 in the NET all season, earned an at-large bid to the WNIT. The Ladyjacks fell to CBU in the WAC semifinals. However, Mark Kellogg’s squad ran to 26 wins one year after winning the WAC regular season and tournament titles.
SFA will open on Wednesday night against Texas State, the Sun Belt Conference regular season champ and tournament runner-up. The Bobcats are 23-9 overall and 13-5 in conference play. Sam Houston played the Bobcats in early November and fell, 75-70, in Huntsville. Da’Nasia Hood averages 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds to pace Texas State who scores 67.1 points. On the year, Texas State has a +8.9 scoring differential against their opponents. In short, this is a really tough draw for the Ladyjacks. But, they do get the advantage of being at home. Last year the WAC was 0-2 in WNIT opening round games with losses from CBU and GCU.
Despite reaching a WAC tournament final (the second appearance in three years) CBU will miss out on a second straight WNIT berth. Instead, the Lancers and New Mexico State will participate in the WBI in Lexington, Kentucky and that tournament guarantees three games in bracket play.
CBU’s first round opponent on Friday is North Dakota. Olivia Lane transferred to GCU from the Fighting Hawks program which posted an 18-11 overall record and 11-7 against Summit League competition this season. They lost in the Summit League quarterfinals to Omaha. In early November the Fighting Hawks played GCU as part of the Lopes Thanksgiving tournament and fell 73-60. The Lancers split their two matchups with GCU this season. Kacie Borowicz averages 20.7 points and 3.9 rebounds to pace the North Dakota offense which has a +5.1 scoring margin. Opponents are scoring 69.2 PPG against the Fighting Hawks so this could be a fairly high scoring game.
For the first time since 2018-2019, New Mexico State will be participating in a national postseason tournament with their WBI bid in Jody Adams’ first season at the school. They’ll play the country’s best turnaround story in UIC, an entry from the very strong Missouri Valley Conference with an 18-15 overall record. They fell in the MVC quarterfinals to Northern Iowa. Ashleen Bracey is also in her first year at UIC and her team is led by Josie Filer who averages 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. She’s a 33 percent 3-point shooter. Bracey led her team to a 16-win improvement over last year’s record. They have a -0.8 scoring margin on the year but when considering the strength of the MVC, that’s actually not bad.
WAC Postseason Schedule:
Texas State at Stephen F. Austin (WNIT First Rd) – Thursday 3/16 at 6:30 PM CT
#14 Southern Utah at #3 Notre Dame (NCAA Tournament First Rd) – Friday 3/17 at 1:30 PM MT
New Mexico State v UIC (WBI First Rd) – Friday 3/17 at 12:30pm ET
CBU v University of North Dakota (WBI First Rd) – Friday 3/17 at 5pm ET