Thursday, March 25, 2010 – The round of 16 begins tonight as teams renew their drive for a postseason title in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
There are seven games on tap for tonight:
Providence at Maryland, 7 p.m. EST. Providence (18-14) has its first winning season in eight years, and the Friars exceeded expectations this year in the Big East. They were picked 15th in the Big East coaches’ poll, and finished tied for eighth, their best finish since 2002. They will play a very young team in Maryland (21-12), whose nine of 10 players are underclassmen. The Terps are 15-5 at home this year and have defeated their first two WNIT opponents by an average of 35 points.
North Carolina A&T at Miami, 7 p.m. EST. The Aggies (23-10), who won the MEAC regular-season title for their third straight year before falling in the conference tournament, are a Cinderella team in the WNIT. They knocked off Wake Forest and Charlotte while playing both on the road in the first two rounds. Miami (19-13), which has hits most wins since the 2002-03 season, matched North Carolina A&T’s feat of winning two consecutive games in the postseason for the first time in program history.
Northwestern at Michigan, 7 p.m. EST. These two Big Ten Conference teams will play each other an unprecedented fourth time this year, with Northwestern winning the first two games in season and Michigan taking the victory in the conference tournament. Northwestern (18-14) is in the postseason for the first time since 1996-97. Michigan (19-13) is playing in the WNIT for the second time in three years, and holds a 5-3 record in WNIT games.
Kansas at Illinois State, 8:05 p.m. EST. Kansas (17-15) was last year’s WNIT national runner-up and on its way to a strong season before season-ending knee injuries to two starters sidetracked the Jayhawks. They lost Angel Goodrich (fourth in the country with 7.1 assists per game) and Danielle McCray (averaging 19.8 points, 7.2 rebounds) during Big 12 Conference play, but have won six of its last seven WNIT games in two years. Illinois State (26-7) is 6-2 in its last three Postseason WNIT appearances, and is one of just nine Division I teams to reach the 25-win plateau for the last three consecutive years.
Illinois at Missouri State, 8:05 p.m. EST. There will be youth on the floor in Springfield, Mo., as Illinois (18-14) includes two freshmen and a sophomore in its starting lineup, and Missouri State (22-10) starts a freshman and four sophomores. Illinois, which has won five of its last six games, is led by senior Jenna Smith, their all-time leading scorer who is averaging 25.0 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in her two WNIT games. Missouri State sophomore Casey Garrison, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, leads the Lady Bears with 20.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game.
BYU at Wyoming, 9 p.m. EST. These teams are familiar foes in the Mountain Athletic Conference, with the teams splitting their matchups in the regular season. BYU (22-9) was picked to finish sixth in the preseason conference polls and exceeded expectations by finishing second. Wyoming (21-11), which tied for fifth place, is averaging 4,053 fans per game in the WNIT this year.
Cal at Oregon, 10 p.m. EST. Cal (20-13) earned its fourth consecutive 20-win season – a first in program history – with a 64-54 victory over Utah in Round 2. Oregon (18-15) has its most wins in five years, and is averaging 94 points per game in the WNIT. These two Pac-10 Conference teams played twice in the regular season, with Cal winning both games.
Friday night: VCU at Syracuse, 7 p.m. EST. VCU (22-12) makes its third straight appearance in the postseason and reaches the third round for the first time in program history. Syracuse (24-10) also celebrates its first time ever winning two consecutive postseason games.