The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s basketball team knew they were most likely headed to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament rather than the NCA Tournament after their early exit from the Big Ten Tournament a week ago. On Monday that was confirmed. The Gophers will not be in the main field of 64, but the second field of 64. The Gophers will host Northern Iowa in the first round of the WNIT Friday night at 6:30 PM at Williams Arena.
Minnesota will be making its fifth appearance in the WNIT this season. They also were in the tournament in 2007, 2013, 2014 and 2016. The Gophers are 4-4 all-time in the event, with their best finish being a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2014. That season the Gophers won home games against Green Bay and SMU before losing in the round of 16 at South Dakota State.
The WNIT does not seed teams like the men’s NIT does. It bases the initial rounds of the brackets much more on geography than season results. Home court is determined after each next matchup is determined. Thus if Minnesota advances they will play the winner of the Cincinnati /Youngstown State matchup either in Minneapolis or Ohio between March 23 and March 26.
The Panthers come into the game against Minnesota with a 20-12 overall record. They went 12-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference, good enough for third place. They lost in the semifinals of the MVC tournament to #2 seed Missouri State who received an #11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Karli Rucker leads UNI averaging 14.7 points per game while Bre Gunnels averages a team leading 4.8 rebounds per game. The Gophers are a perfect 10-0 all time against the Panthers with a 5-0 record in the Barn. The teams last met during the 2013-14 season when the Gophers won in Cedar Falls, 73-55.
The WNIT does not have a television deal until the Final Four, so if you want to see the Gophers play you will have to head down to the Barn to see them. Good luck to Lindsay Whalen and her team and hopefully they can go on a long tournament run!
The entire WNIT bracket is below: