After an early exit in the Big East tournament, the USF women’s basketball team is waiting to see if it will have another shot at making a run for a WNIT championship.
The Bulls (15-15, 6-10), who have an RPI rating of 115, suffered an opening round loss last week to Cincinnati and will find out tonight if they’ve made the cut in the WNIT field that is expanding this year.
The Bulls are 2-5 in their last seven games, this after senior guard Janae Stokes and junior forward Sequoyah Griffin, the team’s second and third leading scorers, were suspended Feb. 13 for violating team rules. USF is also without starting point guard Jasmine Wynne after she tore her ACL on Jan. 20.
With the field expanding from 48 to 64 teams, USF, which won the WNIT title last year, is in position to make the cut and head to its seventh consecutive postseason appearance.
“I’m not going to campaign for (a WNIT birth),” said coach Jose Fernandez, “but it would be nice to keep the postseason streak alive. Our current RPI and the fact that we are defending champions will likely be enough to get us in.”
This year’s expansion for the WNIT tournament is its fourth. When the tournament was created in 1998, 16 teams participated. This year, 31 receive automatic bids, giving a spot to the best team in each of the 31 established conferences. The remaining 33 teams are selected at large.
The NCAA tournament teams will be announced at 7, and the WNIT bracket will be finalized shortly after.
“Reaching the tournament means a lot for our team because not everyone makes it to the postseason,” said senior Jessica Lawson, who leads the Bulls with 14.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. “If we do get in … we are definitely one of the underdogs with only eight players. No one thinks we will make it very far, so having an impressive showing will be huge for our program.”