GREENSBORO – The North Carolina A&T women’s basketball team is one of 16 teams selected to compete in the 2013 Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Aggies will open at Quinnipiac (Hamden, Conn.) on Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.
It is A&T’s second appearance in the Preseason WNIT, after posting a 1-2 record in the 2009 Preseason WNIT. A&T is the third HBCU and second MEAC team to have participated twice in the Preseason WNIT, joining Grambling State and Hampton.
"The WNIT invites 16 teams every year to its preseason tournament,” said A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson. “There are over 300 D1 programs in the country. North Carolina A&T State University receiving an invite lets us know that there is an established standard of excellence in women's basketball here. “Personally, knowing first hand where this program has come from and where it's headed lets me know that we're doing the right things to keep moving this program to new heights. For the student-athletes, it has to be exciting to have a chance to compete in a national tournament to kick off your season."
Ten of the 16 teams selected for the 2013 Preseason WNIT are coming off of NCAA Tournament appearances. The rest of the 16-team field includes Georgia State, Gonzaga, Idaho, IPFW, Louisville, Loyola Chicago, LSU, Mount St. Mary’s, Oklahoma, Quinnipiac, Saint Joseph’s, Stephen F. Austin, Stetson, Tennessee-Martin and Wichita State.
The Aggies’ bracket includes Louisville, the 2013 national runner-up.
The Preseason WNIT features a three-game guarantee format. The event opens Nov. 8 with first-round games. Second-round games will be played Nov. 10-11; semifinals will be Nov. 14; and the championship is set for Sunday, Nov. 17. Teams that lose in the first two rounds will play consolation games on the second weekend, Nov. 15-16. All games are hosted by participating schools.
The championship game will be nationally televised LIVE in HD on CBS Sports Network at 4pm ET on Sunday, Nov. 17.
The Preseason WNIT began in its modern form in 1994. It is organized and produced by Triple Crown Sports, a national sports event company based in Fort Collins, Colo. For more information on the WNIT please visit: www.womensnit.com.
Here’s a snapshot of the field:
Georgia State engineered a five-game turnaround from the season before, finishing 13-16 overall in its last season in the Colonial Athletic Association before moving this fall to the Sun Belt. The Panthers return three starters as well as a couple of transfer players who should make an immediate impact.
Gonzaga is loaded again and will expect to make the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight season under coach Kelly Graves. The Bulldogs (27-6 a year ago and winners of the West Coast Conference with a 15-1 mark) welcome back four starters for their first Preseason WNIT appearance.
Idaho comes off a banner year in which the Vandals captured their first conference championship in 28 years. The WAC Tournament champions (17-16) have all five starters back this fall.
IPFW also returns all five starters for 2013-14. The veteran team is led by Summit League Player of the Year Amanda Hyde, who averaged 18.6 ppg for the 13-17 squad that was picked eighth in the 2012 preseason and finished fourth overall.
Louisville finished second in the nation last season to NCAA champion Connecticut, which was the Cardinals’ second championship game showing in the last five years under Jeff Walz. They return All-Big East first teamer Shoni Schimmel and four other starters, who combined for a 29-9 mark in 2012-13 that included knocking off Baylor in the NCAA Tournament.
Loyola University Chicago will have a new look with first-year head coach Sheryl Swoopes leading the Ramblers, who were 17-15 last season. Swoopes welcomes back four starters as the team transitions from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference.
LSU is coming off of its most successful postseason since 2008, as the Nikki Caldwell-coached Tigers (22-12) made it to the Sweet 16. National Player of the Year candidate Theresa Plaisance, who led the SEC in scoring with 17.0 ppg last year and was fourth with 8.3 rebounds a game, heads up the veteran team.
Mount St. Mary’s returns the bulk of its lineup from a team that managed the most victories (15) in 13 years despite battling several injuries. The Mount won their first Northeast Conference Tournament game in more than 10 years, and will get the top two scorers back from that team.
North Carolina A&T tallied a seven-game turnaround last season under first-year head coach Tarrell Robinson, who led the Aggies to their third Postseason WNIT showing in school history. A&T says goodbye to just two seniors, and has four starters coming back from its 22-10 team that finished 13-3 in the MEAC.
Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale has led the program to the NCAA Tournament for 14 straight years, including two Final Four appearances in the last five years. The Sooners have fought through major injuries the past two years, but with National Player of the Year candidate Aaryn Ellenberg and three other starters back from their 24-11 team, they are the early favorites to contend with Baylor for the Big 12 title.
Quinnipiac is coming off of its best year in school history, sporting a 30-2 mark and a perfect 21-0 run through the Northeast Conference and the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth. Coach Tricia Fabbri gets four starters back from that Bobcat team, including NEC Tournament MVP Brittany McQuain who will lead her team in its inaugural season in the Metro Atlantic Conference.
Saint Joseph’s returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000. Three starters return from Cindy Griffin’s 23-8 team that went 11-3 in the Atlantic 10 and captured the A-10 Tournament title.
Stephen F. Austin will be one of the more veteran teams in the Southland Conference this season, thanks to its entire starting lineup coming back from a 14-17 season. The Ladyjacks have won 15 Southland titles, the most of any team in league history.
Stetson (24-9) has put together its best four years in school history, including a school-record 24 wins last season. Lynn Bria gets three starters back from a squad that has been to three straight postseasons, capped by the recent NCAA Tournament appearance.
Tennessee-Martin was the only team in the nation (19-15) to boast two players in the Top 10 scorers, and both of them are coming back for more in 2013. Two-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Jasmine Newsome (22.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.5 apg) teams with three-time OVC first-teamer Heather Butler (22.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.0 apg) as the Skyhawks prepare to win their fourth straight OVC Tournament title and ensuing NCAA Tournament berth.
Wichita State just wrapped up its best season in school history with its first trip to the NCAA Tournament and a school-record 24 wins in the 24-10 season. Coach Jody Adams is bringing in eight newcomers to blend with the veterans, who captured the program’s first-ever Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles.