A date in next week’s 2013 Women’s National Invitation Tournament awaits the Winthrop women’s basketball team which is among the 31 automatic qualifiers in the 64-team field which will be selected and announced by the tournament committee Monday night, a few hours after the NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed.
Coach Kevin Cook’s Eagles missed out on a spot in the NCAA tournament after falling in the Big South Conference championship last week, but earned the bid to the tournament by virtue of its second place finish in the conference regular season.
For Winthrop, this year’s appearance will mark the second postseason tournament action for the Eagles since the school became a NCAA member in 1985. The only other appearance came in 2009 when Winthrop faced Georgetown in the WNIT first round in Washington, D.C.
“This opportunity puts Winthrop on the national stage and that is tremendous,” said Cook.
“Playing in a national tournament that has such great prestige is a reward for the players and recognizes the efforts they have shown this season,” said Cook, who has guided Winthrop to a 20-11 overall record this year.
The 20 victories is tied for the most in school history since becoming a NCAA member. “Actually we are being recognized for our body of work throughout the season.”
While the Winthrop student body has been away from campus this week for spring break, the women’s team has been practicing each day at the Winthrop Coliseum tuning up for the tournament and an as-yet-to-be-determined opponent.
“By earning this opportunity, it allows us to build a culture that this is what we do during our spring breaks, we prepare for postseason, and that’s good especially for our newcomers,” said Cook.
“We have been able to get some work in this week. While many other programs have turned in their equipment, we continue to go forward and stride. I see improvement in our team this week and we are already seeing the benefits,” he said.
The Winthrop coach also realizes the positive impact that a postseason appearance like this can have on recruiting. “An opportunity like this helps prospects to see we are a successful program and to see the commitment that the university has for women’s basketball,” said Cook.
The first round of the WNIT will be played March 20-22 with the second round following on March 23-25. Round three is set for March 27-29.
The quarterfinals will be held March 30-April 1, with the semifinals set for April 3-4. The championship game, which will be telecast by CBS, will be played April 6.
Nine of the 31 conference automatic qualifiers have already been determined with the others spots to be filled by Sunday evening. The remaining 33 at-large teams will be selected by the tournament committee and must have an overall .500 or better winning percentage to be eligible for consideration.
All games will be played on campus sites. Winthrop has made a bid to host a first round game on March 20 and will find out on selection night if the committee will award the Eagles a home game.