FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The season continues for head coach Tom Collen and the Razorback women’s basketball team as the University of Arkansas was invited to participate in the 2009 Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Arkansas, 17-13 overall, is the Southeastern Conference automatic representative, and will face the winner of Texas-Arlington and Oklahoma State next Monday, March 23 at Bud Walton Arena. UTA plays at Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday.
“We are excited that we have the opportunity to continue our season and represent the University of Arkansas,” Collen said early Monday evening. “We have a young team that wants to keep playing and prove that road wins at Georgia, Mississippi State and Florida were not a fluke.”
Finishing eighth in the league, Arkansas is the highest finishing team in the SEC available for selection by the WNIT as the top seven teams were taken by the NCAA.
“We don’t care who we play,” Collen said. “We just want to get back on the floor.”
The complete bracket is expected later this evening, and a rewrite with full details will be posted here at ArkansasRazorbacks.com as soon as it is released by the WNIT. The 31 automatic bid teams have been posted at WomensNIT.com.
Arkansas returns to the post season for the first time since the 2005 Women’s NIT. The Razorbacks won their opening round game with UNLV before losing to Arkansas State on the road in 2005.
This is the third appearance in the postseason WNIT. Arkansas’ record in the postseason event is 9-2, winning the 1999 WNIT title with five straight wins in the then 32-team field and reaching the WNIT semifinals in 2000.
Arkansas turned down an invitation last season due to injuries and roster size, but more than welcomes the opportunity to continue the 2008-09 season.
“We have a young team that will benefit from the extra games and the experience, but most of all, we want these seniors to go out on a positive note,” Collen said. “For what Whitney Jones and Ayana Brereton have done for this school the past four years, we want them to have the chance to extend their season.”
Overall, this is the 18th postseason appearance for the Razorback women’s team in the 33-year history of the program. For Collen, it is his 10th postseason in his 11 years as a head coach, but only his second time in the Women’s NIT. His 1999-2000 team at Colorado State played in the WNIT, reaching the semifinal round.
Arkansas reached the finals of the 16-team preseason WNIT in 1997, losing to Colorado, 73-71, in the title game. The Razorbacks also have two appearances in the now defunct National Women’s Invitational Tournament. The eight-team tournament held in Amarillo, Texas, predates the current WNIT.
Arkansas won the NWIT title in 1988 with a record-setting offensive effort in the three-game tournament. The Razorbacks were fourth pace at the 1996, and final, NWIT.
Arkansas’ other postseason trips were during the AIAW era, peaking with a finish in the 1982 AIAW Championship round – the final 16 teams.
Sponsored by Triple Crown Sports, the Women’s NIT began in 1998. The tournament has traditionally used home sites. Expanding three years ago to a 48-team field, the 31 automatic bid conferences each receive a team in the new field with 17 at-large teams rounding our the bracket. While there are 48 teams, the bracket is built on a 64-team, six-round draw which allows for 32 games in the opening round, with those 16 winners advancing to face the 16 bye teams in the second round.