Bison will play at Oregon in 1st round of WNIT tournament
North Dakota State was hoping to host a first round game, gets highly regarded opponent in Ducks
FARGO — The North Dakota State women’s basketball players will be spending their Spring Break in Eugene, Ore. It’s not a vacation-type of thing but a first round game in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
The Bison will take on the University of Oregon on Friday at 9 p.m. CST. The Ducks finished 17-14 overall and a 7-11 mark in the Pac-12 Conference that tied the Ducks for eighth place. Seven teams from the Pac-12 made the NCAA tournament field that was announced Sunday.
The WNIT is considered the next-best thing and for NDSU, perhaps the best thing in another step in the growth of the program. It’s the first postseason tourney for the Bison in their Division I history.
“The WNIT is a legit postseason tournament,” said Bison head coach Jory Collins, “that can be a springboard for the next season, especially for us who haven't had the opportunity to do this before. So we’re going to take every advantage this week.”
The Bison got into the tournament by virtue of finishing second in the Summit League during the regular season and receiving the No. 2 seed for the league tournament. NDSU was upended by Kansas City in the quarterfinals a week ago Saturday.
In Oregon, they’ll see a team that finished No. 19 this season in the NET rankings (NDSU was No. 186) and were 5-12 against teams in the NCAA tourney. The Ducks made the NCAAs the previous five years. They reached the WNIT semifinals in 2016 and made the NCAA Final Four as recently as 2019.
“The Oregon program the last several years has had some phenomenal players and phenomenal teams,” Collins said. “They have great home crowds and hopefully will be a great environment for us to play in.”
The Ducks averaged 6,237 fans in 15 home games. They were 11-4 at Matthew Knight Arena, which carries a capacity of 12,364. The NDSU/Oregon winner will play the winner of the Rice at Brigham Young game.
Oregon’s starting point guard, senior Endyia Rogers, is familiar to Collins — he helped try and recruit her when he was an assistant at Kansas. She leads the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game.
The NDSU athletic department submitted bids to host first- and second-round games, with athletic director Matt Larsen saying they were close to the required $6,500 for the first round game and $7,500 for the second-round game. The Bison will take an 18-11 overall record into the tourney, which is grouped into regional matchups as much as possible.
“They’re going to try to maintain seeding as best they can, knowing that every place doesn’t put in a bid,” Larsen said. “Would we have loved to? Absolutely. Any chance to get a home game, we would have loved to do that, it helps you in your chances to have success.”
Collins, however, said he anticipated the Bison were probably not going to get a home game.
“I’m glad we put a bid in and made an effort,” he said. “But when they have the opportunity to put them in places like Oregon, you’re probably just not able to get those kinds of things in Fargo.”
The Ducks were an at-large selection to the WNIT while Washington got the Pac-12’s automatic-qualifier bid. Other teams that received AQ status besides NDSU are Arkansas, Boston University, Columbia, Fairleigh Dickinson, Memphis, Illinois State, Niagara, Jackson State, Bowling Green, University of Albany, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Wyoming, Northern Arizona, California Irvine, San Diego, Stephen F. Austin, Syracuse, Wofford, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Arkansas Little Rock, High Point University, Massachusetts, Western Kentucky, Towson, Liberty and Texas State.
THE BRACKET IS SET!! The 25th edition of the Postseason #WNIT is looking like it could be one of the best yet!— WNIT (@WomensNIT) March 13, 2023
Release: https://t.co/qkzgESitDy pic.twitter.com/HgOtds8bHD
"Obviously, the goal each year is to qualify for the NCAA Tournament," Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said on the school's website. "Having said that, if there is an opportunity to play meaningful basketball games, we are going to pursue that. There are a lot of teams right now who are done with their seasons, so we feel fortunate to have the chance to continue playing — and to play again in front of our great fans, for hopefully multiple games, at Matthew Knight (Arena) is always exciting."
South Dakota State, the Summit tournament champion, was awarded a No. 9 seed to the NCAA Division I tournament Sunday night and will play No. 8 USC in the first round. The Jackrabbits won the WNIT last season, but the Jackrabbits were also a higher seed and played all six games at home.
The Jacks beat UCLA in the semifinals and routed Seton Hall 82-50 in the title game.
“Those guys were playing at home and having success,” Collins said. “We’ve been pretty good at home, too, We say all the time in our program, comparison is the thief of joy. We’re concentrating on us and what we can go try to do and just continue to move our program forward.”