Like their male counterparts, the Iowa women's basketball team ended the season on the bubble, trending away from getting selected for the NCAA Tournament. And, indeed, when the field for the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament was released last night, Iowas was not among the 64 teams selected. This didn't really come as a surprise -- Iowa lost their only game in the Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern (who seemed to be a fellow bubble team, but wasn't selected for either the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT, so maybe not?) and ended the season losing three of four. They didn't exactly present a strong argument to the selection committee.
So it's back to the WNIT for a second-straight year for Iowa. This year they'll be hosting Missouri State in the first round at 7 PM CT on Thursday, March 16.
If they beat the Bears, Iowa will face winner of an all-Dakota clash: South Dakota vs North Dakota. That game would occur next weekend. (Which means that, yes, Iowa could be playing South Dakota in both the men's and women's NITs -- bring it, Coyotes!) Unlike the men's NIT, the Women's NIT isn't really seeded, although the top teams are separated from one another. Beyond that, the regions are generally organized along geographic proximity lines, as you can see from the full bracket here. If they beat Missouri State and South Dakota/North Dakota, Iowa would face either South Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Colorado, or UNLV; the winner of that game would then face the remaining team in that regional, which would be a western team (Colorado State, Saint Mary's, Utah, UC Davis, BYU, Washington State, Wyoming, or Seattle). All WNIT games occur on the home court of one of the schools playing and those decisions are made once the match-ups are set. So it's possible that Iowa could end up hosting several WNIT games if they are able to keep winning.
Missouri State went 16-14 overall this season, with most of those wins coming in the Missouri Valley -- they went 12-6 in league play, finishing third behind Drake and UNI. (An aside: the selection committee absolutely hosed the shit out of Drake. They went 28-4 overall, 18-0 in the Valley, won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, and finished 26th in RPI... and got a 10 seed and a game where they have to play on the 7 seed's (Kansas State) home court. What a shitshow.) Missouri State finished 166th in the RPI rankings and 154th in the Sagarin ratings. Which is to say, they weren't exactly great this year. Iowa should be able to beat them if they avoid turnovers or an ice cold night of shooting.
Missouri State's top player is 5-10 guard Liza Fruendt, a first-team All-MVC player who led the team in scoring (16.1 ppg) and was second on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg). 5-8 guard Lexi Hughes was second on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg) and the top long-range shooter (35.7% on 126 3-point attempts). 6-2 forward Aubrey Buckley is the Bears' main post weapon, averaging 9.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg.
Speaking of scoring, Ally Disterhoft needs 20 points to become Iowa's all-time leading scorer. She could get that with a very good performance Thursday night, but she would also have great odds to claim that record if Iowa is able to win that game and she has two cracks at getting those points. Here's hoping that she -- and Iowa -- can put together a nice little run in the WNIT to wrap this season up.