March is approaching fast and for the Nebraska women’s basketball team, that means it’s time for the postseason. Unlike last year, the question is where Nebraska will play and rather than if Nebraska will make a postseason tournament.
The Huskers are in a unique spot as they have some solid wins and are currently 17-11. In most years, this is an NCAA Tournament-bound team, but Nebraska’s low RPI along with a bad road record has the Huskers likely missing out on the NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska’s most likely chance for postseason play is through the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). The tournament is a step below the NCAA Tournament and is where Nebraska would likely wind up if the season ended today.
One interesting aspect of the WNIT selection process is that the highest remaining team in the conference not selected for the NCAA Tournament will be an automatic qualifier for the WNIT. For Nebraska, it can achieve this by winning against Indiana and a Michigan State loss.
Despite Nebraska finishing at best 8-10 in conference, the Huskers can automatically qualify for the WNIT. All teams above Nebraska, except Michigan State, are in the RPI Top 50 and are fighting for NCAA Tournament bids. According to ESPN’s Charlie Creme, the Big Ten has eight teams in the NCAA Tournament, and all eight are in RPI’s Top 50.
The Huskers have a solid resume and Nebraska can’t do anything this late in the season that would ruin its chances at making the WNIT. Nebraska has beaten several NCAA Tournament-bound teams but its major hurdle is a weak RPI.
Nebraska is 86th in RPI, showing signs of a weaker schedule that hurts Nebraska for WNIT seeding. In the Big Ten, the Huskers are ninth in RPI but are far below the top teams in the conference.
Nebraska is 2-8 against the Top 50 and 5-2 against the rest of the conference, showing signs of a team that wins games against the teams it should beat.
That makes the Huskers the perfect team for the WNIT.
Like the NCAA Tournament, the WNIT seeding plays a crucial role in where a team plays. A better seed means the Huskers have more potential home games throughout the tournament and their seed could depend on their play in the Big Ten Tournament.
Nebraska’s chances of playing in the postseason more than likely do not rely on the Big Ten Tournament, but its small NCAA Tournament chances do. Nebraska has a low RPI but has proven to hang with the top of the conference.
The Huskers will most likely be the No. 10 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That puts the Huskers currently against Michigan, an NCAA Tournament team and a team the Huskers have previously beaten.
One win in the conference tournament would give the Huskers favorable WNIT seeding, but progressing further could elevate Nebraska’s postseason ambitions. Winning the conference tournament guarantees the Huskers a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but making it to the championship could be enough to sneak them into the tournament.
Nebraska is likely guaranteed matchups against NCAA Tournament-bound teams for the rest of that week, if it continues to win. The quarterfinal matchup would most likely be against either Northwestern or Maryland, two of the top teams in the Big Ten.
Nebraska’s chances are still low to make the NCAA Tournament, despite being 17-11, because it has a low RPI. Still, as a winning team in a major conference, Nebraska’s chances are low at not having any postseason action.
The Huskers’ odds are heavily stacked against them to make the NCAA Tournament, but they do not need to win the conference tournament to make it. Despite that, the Huskers are almost guaranteed to continue their season into March.