big ten conference tournament

Hannah Whitish (3) dribbles through two Penn State defenders at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Feb. 22, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Nebraska women’s basketball team pulled off a turnaround season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers are a No. 10 seed in the tournament and face off with No. 7-seeded Arizona State in the first round on Saturday, March 17.

Following a 21-10 season, a third-place ranking in the Big Ten Conference and an 11-5 regular season conference record, Nebraska earned its place among the top-64 teams in the nation.

The Huskers’ opponent in the first round is PAC-12 team Arizona State, which makes its fifth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. A run to the semifinals in the PAC-12 Tournament cemented the Sun Devils’ place in the tournament, and they have a chance to spoil NU’s season.

In this first round matchup, sophomore guard Hannah Whitish will likely lead Nebraska. Whitish averages 12.6 points-per-game and leads her team with 150 assists and 41 steals. Whitish found a way to be productive on all sides of the ball and was rewarded for her efforts this season when she was named Second Team All-Big Ten.

For the Sun Devils, junior forward Kianna Ibis leads her team in points-per-game, with 12.6. She is one of three players to start all 32 games of Arizona State’s season and was a key factor in the team’s success up to this point.

On the defensive side of the ball, freshman center Kate Cain has been a force in the paint this season. She recorded 100 blocks this season and is the first Husker to reach this mark in program history. Cain is impressive on offense, averaging 10.1 points per game.

For Nebraska and Arizona State, a victory in the NCAA Tournament would be a major achievement.

Arizona State is looking to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2016 after a solid conference season. If Arizona State wants to get past Nebraska, it will need to find a way to get Cain into foul trouble and play strong defense on NU’s leading scorers.

Nebraska is coming off one of the biggest turnaround seasons in the nation, led by head coach Amy Williams, who was honored as the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year in just her second season with the Huskers. Now, Nebraska looks to take its first tournament victory since 2013.

Whichever team wins this first-round matchup will face the winner of No. 2-seeded Texas and No. 15-seeded Maine. Assuming the Longhorns pick up the first-round victory, the winner of the Nebraska and Arizona State game will have a tough task in the round of 32.

Nebraska takes on Arizona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 17, in Austin, Texas. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game will air live on ESPN 2 and WatchESPN.

sports@dailynebraskan.com