The University of Wisconsin’s women’s basketball had a sub-.500 year for the sixth straight season, which means they will not be dancing in the NCAA Tournament nor the NIT Tournament.
There are three Big Ten teams that will represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament this year: No. 3 seed Maryland, No. 5 seed Ohio State and No. 9 seed Michigan State. Four teams will represent the Big Ten in the NIT Tournament: Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Penn State. The Badgers are hopeful they will break this streak next year and join the top of the Big Ten in their postseason escapades.
The NCAA Tournament is headlined by No. 1 seeds University of Connecticut, Baylor University, Notre Dame University and the University of South Carolina. All four of these teams can be considered, at least recently, “blue bloods” of women’s basketball as they have all had plenty of success both in the regular season and in postseason play.
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The favorite among the majority of fans has to be the true Goliath of women’s basketball, the UC Huskies. The Huskies have been a dominant force both in the tournament and regular season as they went undefeated this year and are a consensus pick to appear in their fifth consecutive national championship game. They are also building on a 107-game winning streak as of March 6 and have won 10 championships since and including the 2000 season.
But they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.
Streaks are made to be broken and the glorious streak UC is on right now will be broken at some point. Who could do it this year? The other No. 1 seeds are the obvious first thought as they feature three good teams that are certainly no slouches. Baylor and Notre Dame probably pose the greatest risk to the undefeated reigning champions.
But Baylor is coming off a shocking upset in the Big 12 Tournament to No. 6 seed West Virginia so there are lingering questions about the Bears going into the tournament.
South Carolina also could pose a slight risk to the Huskies in the later stages of the tournament. Perhaps one of the more interesting matchups in UC’s bracket region is their potential matchup with Duke or Big Ten Tournament champion Maryland in the semifinals. Maryland especially is the type of high-flying team that could potentially pose a problem for UC should they both make it to that point in the tournament.
The NCAA Tournament is the main dance in March, but those who were fortunate enough to make to the postseason through the NIT Tournament should also be evaluated for reaching the postseason. Big Ten teams Michigan, Indiana and Iowa were either on the bubble or in the last four out for the NCAA Tournament so one has to consider them among the top teams in the NIT this year.
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The NIT features 64 teams, just like the NCAA Tournament, but has the team with the best record in each matchup host the game. This helps to promote excitement and attendance for NIT teams who were on the outside looking in for The Big Dance. There are 32 automatic qualifiers from all of the nation’s conferences based on who had the best record in each of these 32 conferences. The other 32 spots are filled by at-large bids scattered among the rest of the teams in those conferences.
Michigan was the automatic qualifier from the Big Ten and they seem to be a major contender for the championship. They will host Kent State on Thursday, which promises to be an exciting prospect for Wolverine fans. PSU will have a chance to host a game as well against Ohio and could have a matchup with Michigan a few rounds later.
Indiana and Iowa will also get to host games in the first weekend of the tournament. This is important for the Big Ten as it will help bring a little bit of respect and acknowledgement to the conference, even if it is the NIT Tournament and not the major March tournament.
Badger fans will have to take solace in the amount of Big Ten teams in the tournament and try to root for them to advance deep into both tournaments. The NCAA Tournament will start Thursday and the NIT will start with one game Wednesday but most first round games are Thursday.