The 20th Postseason WNIT is nearing its conclusion, with the two semifinals both scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 29.
Three power conferences are making a push for the championship, with Villanova (Big East) playing at Michigan (Big Ten), and Washington State (Pac-12) facing Georgia Tech (ACC).
The championship game will tip off at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 1, and the game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Villanova (20-14) at Michigan (26-9)
Villanova has won four road games to reach this point, including an overtime victory at James Madison and a hard-fought 12-point win at Indiana in the quarterfinals, where the team went 10-of-10 at the free throw line in the final minute. Since the Postseason WNIT expanded to 64 teams in 2010, only two other teams have won four road games to reach the semifinals – Florida in 2013 and Syracuse in 2012.
The Wildcats are being very smart with the ball this year, which is the 39th under head coach Harry Perretta. The team has a strong assist-to-turnover total (434 to 323) and is known for hoisting up 3-pointers, shooting more than 27 per game. Junior guard Alex Louin has been the backbone for Villanova in the tournament, averaging 18.7 ppg.
Michigan has reached the WNIT semifinals for the third consecutive year. The Wolverines fell to Florida Gulf Coast in 2016 and UCLA in 2015 but enter this game on a roll, topping Virginia Tech by 18 points in the quarterfinals and beating St. John’s by 20 points in Round 3. Junior guard Katelynn Flaherty is averaging 20 ppg this season and is the only Michigan player to top 700 points in a season, which she’s done twice. The team is 18-1 at home this season.
Sophomore center Hallie Thome has been very tough to contain during the WNIT; she’s averaging 15.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this year. The Wolverines are making this run despite the absence of freshman Kysre Gondrezick, who took a leave of absence after the second game of this tournament. She averages almost 15 ppg and shoots 43 percent from 3-point range.
Washington State (16-19) at Georgia Tech (21-14)
Washington State is enjoying rare air – this is just the fourth time in the modern era that the Cougars have reached the postseason, and the only time they’ve won a game. This current four-game streak (including at overtime win at Wyoming in Round 2) is the longest of the year for the team. Washington State’s signature win of the year before the WNIT was against UCLA on Jan. 6; the Bruins went on to reach the NCAA Sweet 16.
Washington State has used 11 different starters this year and features players from Australia, Bulgaria, Greece, France, Macedonia, Portugal and Serbia. The team forces 19 turnovers per game and has been able to advance despite shooting just 31 percent from 3-point range this year, and just 58 percent from the free throw line. This is the first time WSU and Georgia Tech have played each other.
Georgia Tech is led by junior forward Zaire O’Neil (12.5 ppg) and freshman guard Francesca Pan (11.3 ppg) – Pan is the ACC Freshman of the Year and is a native of Italy, and she’s averaging 14.5 ppg in the WNIT. Both players are effective and aggressive, as O’Neil has fouled out nine times and Pan six times this season. The Yellow Jackets are looking to use the WNIT to accelerate progress for next season, as they are losing just two players from the current roster after this season.
The Yellow Jackets have been playing terrific defense in the WNIT, with only Alabama topping 60 points against them. Opponents are shooting under 40 percent from the field this year, and Georgia Tech is forcing nearly 18 turnovers per contest.