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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska Women’s Basketball Makes WNIT, Will Face Missouri State in First Round

March 13, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball missed out on the NCAA Tournament, but the team’s season is not yet over.

The Huskers were automatic qualifiers for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, being the top team in the Big Ten regular season standings that did not make the NCAA field. 

The 64-team field was announced Sunday night, with the bracket released Monday. Nebraska will start its postseason journey at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Wednesday against Missouri State.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to compete together and represent Nebraska and the Big Ten Conference in the WNIT,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said in a press release Sunday. “Playing at this time of year is a privilege, and we intend to make the most of it.”

The Huskers are the only Big Ten team in the WNIT. Purdue was one of the last teams to make the NCAA Tournament, while Michigan State declined a WNIT bid. 

Every game in the tournament will be hosted by one of the teams playing. Seeds are not listed on the bracket, so the amount of games Nebraska would be able to host is unknown. 

For now, the Huskers will focus on their upcoming opponent. Missouri State owns a 20-11 record in head coach Beth Cunningham’s first season with the program. Cunningham spent nine seasons at a head coach at VCU earlier in her career, earning the most wins in program history. She then went on to be an associate head coach under Basketball Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame for eight years, being a part of the 2018 national championship team’s staff. 

Missouri State might not be an NCAA Tournament squad, but the team has had multiple notable accomplishments. The Bears have two wins over NCAA Tournament teams, beating Drake and Saint Louis. Drake did beat Missouri State twice after that, and also took down Nebraska early this season.

Most of the Bears stats aren’t overly impressive. They were one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country, and ranked last in the Missouri Valley Conference in 3-point shooting. They make up for that through rebounding, however, being one of the best in their conference in that metric and a top 10 team in the nation on the offensive glass.

Fifth-year guard Aniya Thomas leads Missouri State on the court. The 5-foot-7 Kansas transfer leads the team in scoring, assists and steals.

Should Nebraska win its first round matchup, it’ll face Colorado State or Northern Iowa. The latter is also a Missouri Valley Conference team, having split its matchups with the Bears.

The Huskers have already played three teams in the WNIT field. In nonconference play, they beat Kansas, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Wyoming. The last two of that group play each other in the first round and wouldn’t be able to meet Nebraska until the tournament semifinals. The Jayhawks, however, could meet the Huskers in the third round, or the “Super 16.”

Nebraska and Kansas’ first matchup went to triple overtime at PBA before the hosts came out on top.

Of course, both teams would need two wins to set up that rematch. The Huskers first play Missouri State at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

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