Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State to represent conference in this year’s tournament
ROSEMONT, Ill. – Hours after six Big Ten Conference women’s basketball programs earned a place in the NCAA Tournament, another three Big Ten schools were chosen to participate in this year’s Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), it was announced late Monday evening by the event’s organizer, Triple Crown Sports.
Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State accepted bids to compete in the 64-team single-elimination tournament, which begins this week and culminates with the championship game at 3 p.m. (ET) April 6. All WNIT games are played at campus sites, with those contests hosted by Big Ten schools from the first through the semifinal rounds streamed live on BTN Plus, and the WNIT championship game televised live on CBS Sports Network.
Indiana became the sixth current Big Ten school to win the WNIT championship when it earned last year’s title, 65-57 over Virginia Tech before a record crowd of 13,007 fans at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. The Hoosiers subsequently rode the momentum from that championship to secure a berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the fifth time a Big Ten school has reached the NCAA Tournament the year after winning the WNIT title.
This marks the fourth time in the past six years the Big Ten has had at least nine of its schools earn a berth in a postseason tournament (NCAA or WNIT). The conference record of 11 postseason bids by current schools was set in 2014, when six programs earned NCAA tournament berths and five more competed in the WNIT, and matched in 2016 (five NCAA, six WNIT).
Minnesota will open its WNIT run at home, welcoming Northern Iowa to Williams Arena for a first-round game at 7:30 p.m. (ET) Friday. The Golden Gophers will be appearing in the WNIT for the fifth time and first since 2016, having compiled a 4-4 (.500) record in the event. Minnesota’s best WNIT finish came in 2014, when it reached the third round.
Northwestern makes its sixth WNIT appearance and first since 2016 when it entertains Dayton in a first-round matchup at 8 p.m. (ET) Thursday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Wildcats are 7-4 (.636) all-time in NIT play, counting both the WNIT and its unaffiliated predecessor, the eight-team round-robin National Women’s Invitation Tournament (NWIT) in Amarillo, Texas (where Northwestern finished as the runner-up in 1996, the last year of that tournament’s existence).
Ohio State received the Big Ten’s automatic bid to this year’s WNIT as the highest conference finisher not selected for the NCAA Tournament (the Buckeyes finished in fifth place in the final Big Ten standings at 10-8). Ohio State will play host to Morehead State in a WNIT first-round game at 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday at Value City Arena. The Buckeyes are making just their second WNIT appearance, having won all five games they played in 2001 (when the tournament was a 32-team event) en route to the WNIT title.