Tuesday, March 13, 2018 1:00 am
WNIT loaded with state teams
Hoosiers, Cards, Boilers all part of postseason
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
For just the fourth time in 39 years, Purdue's women's basketball team missed the NCAA Tournament, the bracket's selection committee announced Monday.
The Boilermakers (18-13) were among the eight teams the committee announced Sunday were being considered for the final four spots in the tournament. When the bracket was revealed, Buffalo, Oklahoma, Creighton and Minnesota – which beat the Boilers 78-74 in West Lafayette Feb. 8 – were in from that group and Purdue was out.
Instead of reaching the field of 64, the Boilers will play in the WNIT along with fellow Big Ten schools Indiana, Penn State and Michigan State. The Boilers will face IUPUI (22-9) on Thursday in the opening round and they did not submit a bid to play a home game in the tournament, so they'll begin on the road.
It will be the first time since 2010 Purdue has played in the 64-team WNIT and third time overall. The Boilers had made the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons, winning at least 20 games in each of those campaigns, before missing it in two of the last four years.
Purdue earned its status as a bubble team with an up-and-down finish to the season. The Boilers beat perennial powerhouse Maryland at Mackey Arena on Feb. 15, but lost to three fellow bubble teams – Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan State – in their final six games. Then they dropped a tight game to Rutgers, 62-60 in the second round of the Big Ten tournament, denying them more chances to impress the selection committee in the tournament's later rounds.
The Hoosiers (17-14) earned the Big Ten automatic bid as the highest finisher in the conference standings that did not make the NCAA Tournament. Indiana will open the tournament Thursday against Tennessee-Martin (19-14).
It will be the second straight year Indiana plays in the WNIT after the Hoosiers reached the quarterfinals last season, where they lost to Villanova 69-57. The 2018 tournament will be Indiana's eighth appearance in the WNIT.
Indiana reached the WNIT after winning nine of its final 11 games, including an eight-game winning streak from Jan. 20 to Feb. 20. The torrid stretch to finish the season included a 111-109 quadruple-overttime victory over Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament's second round.
The Hoosiers qualify for the postseason for the third straight year and extend the career of all-time leading scorer Tyra Buss in the process. Buss already owns single-season IU records for points, steals and assists and ranks No. 3 all-time on the Hoosiers scoring list for men or women, trailing only Calbert Cheaney and Steve Alford.
The Cardinals (24-6) are the third team from Indiana to join the WNIT field. They earned the automatic bid from the MAC and will play Middle Tennessee (18-12) Thursday in the tournament's first round. If both Purdue and Ball State win their first-round games, the teams will meet in the second round.
The winner of that game would face Indiana if the Hoosiers win their first two games.
Ball State finished 13-5 in the MAC, giving it the conference's third-best record and allowing it to secure the automatic bid after Buffalo earned one of the last four bids to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cardinals went 0-3 against the Bulls and Central Michigan, the top two teams in the conference, during the regular season, although all three games were decided by eight points or fewer.