photo by Aaron Packard/USD
With the quarterfinals of the 2018 Postseason WNIT tipping off today, here’s a look at the eight teams still in the mix and looking to cap the season with that rarest of moments – celebrating a hard-earned postseason championship.
SOUTH DAKOTA (29-6) – Ciara Duffy, a sophomore guard for the Coyotes, converted a shot with 22 seconds to go in Thursday’s Round 3 game against Michigan State that forced overtime; freshman Chloe Lamb drained a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to push the Coyotes into the lead. They held off the Spartans in the end to secure a home game today against TCU.
With superior stats in 3-point shooting (37 percent) and at the free-throw line (nearly 80 percent), the Coyotes have shown an ability to come back from deficits. South Dakota (the 2016 WNIT champion) also forces a lot of turnovers and always will be tough to handle in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center (17-1 this season).
NOTE THIS: Just like in 2016, South Dakota won the Summit League regular season title this year but lost to South Dakota State in the tournament and had to continue its season in the WNIT … the attendance of 3,072 against Michigan State was South Dakota’s second-largest home crowd of the season (4,018 - South Dakota State).
TCU (22-12) – The Frogs looked to be in serious trouble at New Mexico on Thursday, but 60 percent shooting in the second half helped the visitors respond after falling behind by 14 points. Jordan Moore, a 6-foot-3 junior center, has hit 19 of her 22 field goal attempts through three games in the WNIT.
The Frogs are a confident group on offense, averaging better than 75 points per game – that’s the second-best offensive output in program history. While South Dakota is a terrific team at home, TCU just beat a New Mexico squad that’s was 19-2 at home.
NOTE THIS: TCU has just two seniors on the roster, with Toree Thompson the main contributor in that class (8.7 points, 24.5 minutes per game). The Frogs have three D-I transfers on the team, from top-notch schools such as USC, Ole Miss and Oregon.
INDIANA (20-14) – The Hoosiers will face Kansas State in the quarterfinals, having polished off Purdue for the third time this season. Point guard Tyra Buss came through with 24 points and now has 2,296 for her career; she added six assists, three steals and just one turnover.
Indiana had a season-high in attendance Thursday at 5,564, which was also the largest crowd to see a home game since 2012. The comfort of home is something the Hoosiers truly enjoy, with two freshmen in the starting lineup, and Jaelynn Penn (58 points in the WNIT on 63 percent shooting) looks like the star-in-waiting with the pending graduations of Buss and Amanda Cahill.
NOTE THIS: The Hoosiers continue to advance in the WNIT despite a couple of negative trends, shooting worse than their opponents from the free-throw line, committing more turnovers and being outrebounded. On the plus side, Indiana holds opponents to a paltry 31 percent from 3-point range.
UC DAVIS (28-6) – Junior forward Morgan Bertsch is on the way to setting stratospheric records for the Aggies program. She's just 56 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer at UC Davis at 1,655 points. This is the furthest a Big West Conference school has ever advanced in the modern era of the Postseason WNIT.
The Aggies have a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio, which has helped them play well on the road to the tune of a 12-4 mark. They also shoot about 40 percent from 3-point range.
NOTE THIS: UC Davis head coach Jennifer Gross was named the Big West coach of the year for the second straight time this season; the team's offense is influenced and inspired by the "Princeton" style, notorious for back cuts and clever passes.
WEST VIRGINIA (24-11) -- The Mountaineers held James Madison to under 12 percent shooting from the field in two quarters of their Round 3 game Friday. Defense has been the norm for West Virginia this season, as opponents are scoring 12 fewer points per game and are shooting a bleak 30 percent from 3-point range.
The Mountaineers reached the 2015 Postseason WNIT title game and lost by just two points to a young and trending UCLA team. Today's opponent, St. John's used to be in the Big East Conference with WVU, which leads the all-time series between the programs, 18-6.
NOTE THIS: Teana Muldrow will cap her WVU career ranked in the program's top 10 in career scoring, rebounding, field goals made, 3-pointers made, blocks, double-doubles and games played.
ST. JOHN’S (19-14) – The Red Storm have been fearsome on defense in the WNIT, allowing 47, 48 and 52 points in their three victories. In beating Duquesne on Thursday, St. John’s forced 18 turnovers, and on the season teams are shooting just under 40 percent from the field against the Red Storm.
St. John’s will have to play on the road in the quarterfinals; the Red Storm is 5-6 away from home this season.
NOTE THIS: St. John’s has the current Big East freshman of the year in Qadashah Hoppie, and the team also leans heavily on sophomore Alisha Kebbe. Both average about 10 points per game and are high-quality shooters from 3-point range.
VIRGINIA TECH (21-13) – The Hokies got all five starters in double figures for scoring in Thursday’s win at home against Fordham. Virginia Tech will take on Alabama next; VT reached the quarterfinals last year but lost to eventual champion Michigan.
The Hokies continue to rebuild their program after a 12-20 finish in 2014-15. That year they were 1-15 in the ACC, but they’ve improved in many ways and were 6-10 in the league this year.
NOTE THIS: Regan Magarity, a fourth-year junior from Sweden, broke her own record for single-season rebounds Thursday – she now has 321 for the year. She also set the single-season record for minutes played for the VT program.
ALABAMA (20-13) – The Crimson Tide fell behind by 17 points against Georgia Tech on Thursday, a sobering start against the team that lost the 2017 WNIT title in a three-overtime contest. But Alabama fought back, and after six lead changes in the last seven minutes, Meoshonti Knight hit a layup with five seconds left to secure the win.
The Tide did something unusual, winning a high-level D-I game without hitting a 3-pointer (0-for-6 overall), but a solid night from the free-throw line (19-of-25) and forcing 16 turnover was key.
NOTE THIS: Sophomore Jasmine Walker played just 23 minutes in Alabama’s last three conference games; she’s recovering from injury and played 25 minutes in the team’s 80-61 win over UCF, and then 18 minutes vs. Georgia Tech (where she grabbed eight rebounds).