The 2015 Preseason WNIT is approaching full boil this week, with three teams in the semifinals ranked nationally in the top 20 and a fourth looking to make its mark with another upset or two by the time the dust settles.
Both semifinals tip off Thursday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. ET, with No. 17 South Florida traveling to No. 4 Baylor and No. 19 DePaul playing host to Indiana. The winners will advance to Sunday’s WNIT title game, set for 3 p.m. ET and to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
Here’s a quick look at the semifinal matchups:
BAYLOR vs. SOUTH FLORIDA: While there’s plenty of season left to go, this game is perfectly positioned to give each team a chance to see where it stands against top-flight competition.
The Lady Bears (2-0) have allowed just 62 points this season and have used their speedy, swarming defense to force dozens of turnovers. Not only is Baylor fast, it mixes in shot-blockers as well, which has created a lot of empty possessions for the opposition.
“I like the way our defense is playing. We’re big, big on the perimeter,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey after Monday’s 97-42 win against Southern Miss. “I think we’re altering shots, I think we’re getting to loose balls, and I don’t have any complaints about our defense right now. We’ll see how good it really is on Thursday.”
Should South Florida keep the game tighter on the scoreboard, the Lady Bears will need to be more productive in a few spots. So far, they are just 6-of-22 from 3-point range (27 percent) and a chilly 60 percent from the free-throw line. Nina Davis and Duke transfer Alexis Jones are always threats to ring up points.
For the Bulls (2-0), seniors Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins have been tough to handle, as both are scoring and rebounding with great effectiveness. Freshman Kitija Laksa has been in the starting lineup both times and is looking comfortable in the role of outside sniper, going 9-of-23 from 3-point range.
"I thought the last 6 minutes of the game we really defended," said coach Jose Fernandez after Sunday’s 73-58 victory against Drexel. "We just went small and switched everything."
Williams is projected to be a top-10 selection in next year’s WNBA draft, and she’s averaging 30 points per game in two contests.
DEPAUL vs. INDIANA: This is the first meeting between these regional programs since 1981. DePaul (2-0) has four players averaging in double figures and has been steady throughout with the experienced touch of Jessica January, Megan Podkowa and Chanise Jenkins. Sophomore Mart’e Grays is emerging as another weapon.
"We want to make it a `DePaul Ball' kind of game that is free flowing and up and down the court," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno after the team’s 77-54 victory Sunday versus St. Bonaventure. "St. Bonaventure forces you to play their grinder style, and I was not overly pleased with the readiness of our team.
"I want to win the battle of the tempos. But if we have to lose the tempo battle to win the game, I don't care. We didn't play one of our sharper games, but sometimes you have to grind out a win."
The Hoosiers (2-0) took down a top 25 program Tuesday, easing past Chattanooga, 54-43, with a defense-first approach. The Mocs labored through 18 turnovers and scored just six points in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Tyra Buss and classmate Amanda Cahill, a forward, are getting a ton of playing time and lead the way offensively.
“‘This is our quarter,’” coach Teri Moren told her team before the fourth quarter Tuesday. “‘If we’re going to win this thing, we needed to push the ball in transition.’ At that point, we were just feeding them with confidence that we have to find ways to get stops and win.”
In the consolation round, 12 teams will wrap up their three-game guarantee. St. Bonaventure will play at Drexel on Saturday, with Chattanooga hosting Southern Miss on Friday.
Two four-team brackets will play out as well – Southern Illinois is the home court for games involving Alabama State, Tennessee State and Siena, while UT Arlington will host Dartmouth, McNeese State and Jacksonville.