Buffs Open WNIT on Friday
MEMPHIS — The Colorado women's basketball team opens the WNIT against Louisiana on Friday. The Buffaloes will be making their first postseason appearance since the 2017 WNIT.
Colorado (10-10) has had its share of success in the WNIT. The Buffs are 14-6 all-time in the WNIT, including 6-0 in the first round of the tournament. The team's longest run came in the 2008 tournament, advancing to the semifinals.
This is the first postseason tournament experience for all 16 members of the Buffs. Colorado was on the verge of a WNIT appearance last season before the postseason play was canceled across the board.
"I'm very excited for my team," junior Peanut Tuitele said. "This is an opportunity for us to grow more as a team and to mature. Knowing we made the postseason is a huge accomplishment, no matter what the tournament. It's a huge accomplishment. There are a lot of teams that aren't playing [right now]. We are very grateful to be here.'
This year's WNIT guarantees teams two games, opposed to the normal 64 teams, one-and-done format. Also different from the Buffs' previous WNIT experiences, is the fact that the tournament is being played completely at neutral sites.
"We were excited to host a game [last WNIT] and that was really great, but it just felt like another home game against a different opponent," head coach JR Payne recalled. "I think this year it will have a tournament-type feel, like the Pac-12 Tournament or the NCAA Tournament where everyone is getting on a plane and going somewhere."
The Buffs are treating the WNIT as another rung as they continue to climb up the ladder of success. Teams that have played in the WNIT championship over the last five years are all in the field of 64 for this year's NCAA Tournament, with an average of being No. 4 seed.
"I think that speaks volumes to what postseason play can do for a team," Payne explained. "It takes maturity and things like that. I'm excited for us to have the opportunity."
One doesn't have to look outside the Pac-12 to see what trips to the WNIT have done for teams. In 2015 UCLA won the WNIT and has played in three Sweet Sixteen's and one Elite Eight since. Arizona has seen similar results, having won the WNIT in 2019 and spent all but the first week of the 2019-20 season inside the AP top 25.
"So many teams that make a run in the WNIT credit that postseason experience with preparing their team for the future," Payne added. "Every game is just as important."
Louisiana (16-6) was paced this season by Ty'Reona Doucet. She earned First Team All-Sun Belt honors, as well as the SBC Defensive Player of the Year. Doucet ranked third on the Ragin' Cajun's in scoring (10.7 ppg) and led the team in rebounds (154) and blocks (33).
Brandi Williams and Skyler Goodwin also earned SBC honors. Williams was Second Team All-Sun Belt, while Goodwin was Third Team.
Friday's tip is set for 1 p.m. MT.
This year's tournament will be streamed on FloHoops.com. Cory Lopez and Carrol Callan will have the call on the Colorado Radio Network, locally on AM 630 (KHOW), CUBuffs.com/Listen and TuneIn.