After a strong showing last season, the Missouri State women’s basketball team was selected to compete in the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the fifth time in school history.
The Lady Bears were one of 16 teams selected to compete in the Preseason WNIT, joining the likes of Boise State, Davidson, DePaul, Drexel, UMKC, Miami (Ohio), Oklahoma, Oregon State, Pacific, Portland State, Prairie View A&M, South Alabama, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, UAB and UC Irvine.
“We’re definitely excited for it, and we’re honored to be invited to it,” senior guard Alexa Willard said. “We want to go out there and do our best to get some wins and make some noise.”
The last time the Lady Bears made an appearance in the Preseason WNIT was back in 2010. They had also made appearances in 1994, 1998 and 2002, tying them with Oklahoma as the most invited team in tournament history.
The tournament contains a lot of good competition, as 12 of the 16 teams made some form of a postseason tournament. Ten teams that finished with 20 or more wins last season.
“We’ve got a solid group of established programs from conferences with a national presence, but our mid-major teams have a proven ability to make noise and be very tough to handle,” WNIT Director Renee Carlson said in a press release published by the WNIT.
“I think it’s a good honor for our program,” junior guard Brice Calip said. “There are a lot of good teams that are in that tournament every year, and it’s good knowing who might be in the NCAA tournament.”
One of the schools invited to compete in the tournament is DePaul, who the Lady Bears are familiar with. They upset the Blue Demons in the round of 64 in last year’s NCAA tournament 89-78.
The Lady Bears know that DePaul is in the tournament, but a rematch isn’t on their minds.
“I just think we’re looking forward to any team we get,” senior guard Alexa Willard said. “We’re definitely going to scout and get prepared for them.”
Calip echoed Willard’s statement but doesn’t want to forget about DePaul holding a grudge against them from the upset in last year’s tournament.
“Knowing that we might face them, I think they’d probably seek revenge and we would want to respect them,” Calip said. “They’re in the Big East. They’re gonna come for us.”
The Lady Bears are excited and prepared to play high-level competition in the tournament.
“We want it to test us and push us to be better,” Willard said. “After the experience, we want to know that we mesh better and that we’ve gotten through some adversity.”
The Lady Bears are aware that the tournament will test them, but they also want to get a good look at who could be joining them come postseason time.
“Just knowing competition we could play in the postseason,” Calip said. “I think it’ll be our first big challenge of the year.”
The first round of the tournament will kick-off Friday, Nov. 8, where the Lady Bears will play host to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.