Update: Here’s the bracket!
The Big Ten placed seven women’s teams in the NCAA tournament. As the #8 seed, the Huskers were next up for the WNIT. As it turns out, Nebraska was the only B1G team that made the [condensed for 2021] 32 team field. This invite was a strong possibility, but it is now confirmed. The Huskers had some remarkable wins, but some awful losses as well. Given the roster turnover, pandemic year, and injuries, the inconsistent Husker season turned out about as well as could be expected.
The Huskers finished the regular season with 12-12 overall record that included a 9-10 Big Ten Conference mark. Nebraska, posted five wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Rutgers, Northwestern-2, Michigan State, Idaho State). Nebraska put a scare into Maryland, who is a #2 seed in the NCAA tourney.
Sam Haiby turned into a reliable player in almost every category as she could score, rebound and assist. She earned second team All-Big Ten honors. Kate Cain was named to the five-person All-Defense team for the conference as well as earning honorable mention. Cain is one of the elite shot blockers in women’s basketball and has incredible hands and good footwork on offense. The 6-5 center is a player that opposing teams have to account for in their game plan. Isabelle Bourne also was named as a honorable mention pick. Bourne has been asked to do a little bit of everything as she was originally slated to play a power forward position but had to move out to wing due to injuries. She is a very polished all-round player who still has room to improve (which should scare opposing coaches) in the next 2-3 years of her college basketball career.
Normally, the WNIT has a funky bid system that allows upper seeds a chance to host one or two tournament games. Due to the pandemic, this year’s WNIT will start with eight teams at each of four regional sites — Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Memphis, Tenn.; and Rockford, Ill. First-round play begins Friday, March 19; Round 2 is March 20, and Round 3 is March 22. The four regional champions will advance to the Memphis site, with the semifinals tipping off March 26 and the championship game set for March 28. All games will be available via streaming through FloHoops. Every team will get at least two games in this year’s event.
Nebraska Coach Amy Williams said the Huskers were excited to continue their season in the WNIT.
“We are heading into the postseason looking at the WNIT as a great opportunity,” Williams said. “We think we have a team that had a season worthy of NCAA Tournament selection, but we weren’t chosen. Now we have another chance to prove ourselves while getting our young players some invaluable experience. We are excited to keep playing, and we are going to try and make the most of it.”
Automatic Qualifiers (9)
Bowling Green (20-6) Mid-American
California Baptist (24-0) Western Athletic
Dayton (14-3) Atlantic 10
Delaware (21-4) Colonial
Louisiana (16-6) Sun Belt
New Mexico (15-4) Mountain West
Rice (18-4) Conference USA
Samford (14-9) Southern
UT Martin (20-5) Ohio Valley
Arizona State (11-10), Pac-12
Charlotte (10-10), Conference USA
Clemson (11-13), Atlantic Coast
Colorado (10-10), Pac-12
Creighton (9-11), Big East
DePaul (14-8), Big East
Drake (16-11), Missouri Valley
Florida (11-13), SEC
Fordham (12-4), Atlantic 10
Fresno State (16-10), Mountain West
Houston (16-7), American
Illinois State (15-7), Missouri Valley
Milwaukee (19-7), Horizon
Missouri (9-11), SEC
Nebraska (12-12), Big Ten
Northern Iowa (14-12), Missouri Valley
Ohio (14-8), Mid-American
Ole Miss (11-11), SEC
Saint Louis (12-4), Atlantic 10
San Francisco (15-10), West Coast
Tulane (17-8), American
UMass (14-7), Atlantic 10
Villanova (15-6), Big East
Nebraska should be very competitive in this field, especially if we see the team that staked out their claim as the superior defense and the one willing to get creative to manufacture offense.
Go Big Red!