Flashes are in the WNIT, opponent to be announced later tonight

The Kent State women’s basketball team will continue its 2016-17 season in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, which starts Wednesday.

The Flashes are one of 64 teams in the field.

Their opponent will be announced sometime before midnight. It’s likely to be within driving distance of Kent, as the tournament tries to schedule early round games to minimize travel expenses and class time missed by student-athletes.

All WNIT games are played on campus sites.

Kent State’s season was a stunning turnaround for a team that hadn’t won more than seven games in any year since 2010-11.

The Flashes are 19-12. They won the MAC East championship and finished third overall in the conference. They lost in the MAC tournament quarterfinals to eventual champion Toledo, 68-65. That was the closest any team came to the Rockets in the tournament.

Toledo on Monday was named a 10th seed in the NCAA tournament. The Rockets, 25-8, will play Big East co-champion Creighton 23-7 Friday in Stockton, California. Creighton, the No. 7 seed, made the tournament as an at-large team. Toledo was the only MAC school to make the NCAA tournament

This will be the third WNIT game for the Flashes. Their last was at Duquesne in Pittsburgh in 2011, when they lost 64-56. The year before they lost at Michigan, 69-34, and 2004, they lost at Saint Joseph’s 61-51 in Philadelphia.

The MAC and the Atlantic 10 each have five teams in the field, the most of any conference. The Big Ten has four and American, Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Summit three each.

Other MAC teams in the field are regular-season champion Central Michigan, Ball State, Northern Illinois and Ohio.

32 teams got automatic bids to the tournament as the highest ranking school in a conference that didn’t make the NCAA tournament. That often is a mid-major champion that lost in its conference tournament. But it also includes, for example, the fifth-place team in a conference like the Big Ten, which places multiple teams in the NCAA.

The other 32 teams are chosen based primarily on an average of various rating systems like the RPI, Sagarin, Moore and Massey. That can be adjusted by the selection committee based on factors like recent record and common opponents.

Teams from the same conference are never matched in the first round and usually not in the second. Teams that played during the regular season are rarely paired in early rounds.

As I write this, the WNIT and its teams are scrambling to put together a bracket. Schools can bid for a home game (Kent State chose not to), and the WNIT decides sites based on willingness to host a game (which can cost $12,000 or so), fan base, location and record.

The tournament is seeded, but regional competition is emphasized in early rounds. The tournament website describes the process as determining high, middle, and lower tier teams. High and low teams are matched in the first round; middle teams play team other.

The closest schools geographically to Kent State I see in the list (not counting MAC teams and season opponents) are Duquesne of the Atlantic 10 in Pittsburgh (18-15), Michigan of the Big Ten (22-9) in Ann Arbor, Penn State of the Big Ten (19-10) in College Station, Indiana (20-10) of the Big Ten in Bloomington, and Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis of the Summit League(24-8).

There are several teams from Philadelphia and Washington area that also might furnish opponents, along with Morehead State (21-9) in Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State (21-10).

When I blocked out possible rankings of WNIT teams Sunday, l estimated that Kent State would be in the lower part of the middle tier. In that list of possible opponents above, I’d call Penn State the most likely middle-tier opponent. Other middle-tier possibilities might be Drexel (21-10) in Philadelphia, Virginia Tech (17-13) in Blacksburg, Middle Tennessee State and Morehead State.

Here’s the WNIT field, as listed on the tournament website:

Abilene Christian (22-8) – Southland
Bethune-Cookman (21-10) – MEAC
BYU (20-11) – West Coast
Central Michigan (23-8) – MAC
Colorado State (24-8) – Mountain West
George Washington (20-9) – Atlantic 10
Grambling State (18-14) – SWAC
IUPUI (24-8) – Summit
James Madison (24-8) – Colonial
Little Rock (24-8) – Sun Belt
Mercer (25-6) – Southern
Michigan (22-9) – Big Ten
Middle Tennessee (21-10) – C-USA
Missouri State (16-14) – Missouri Valley
Morehead State (21-9) – Ohio Valley
Navy (23-9) – Patriot
New Hampshire (26-5) – America East
North Dakota (20-10) – Big Sky
Oklahoma State (17-14) – Big 12
Princeton (16-13) – Ivy
Radford (24-8) – Big South
Rider (24-8) – MAAC
Sacred Heart (17-14) – Northeast
Seattle (15-17) – WAC
Stetson (26-6) – Atlantic Sun
UC Davis (23-7) – Big West
UCF (20-11) – American
Villanova (16-14) – Big East
Virginia (19-12) – ACC
Washington State (12-19) – Pac-12
Wright State (24-8) – Horizon

Alabama (19-13) – SEC
Ball State (21-10) – MAC
Colorado (15-15) – Pac-12
Drexel (21-10) – Colonial
Duquesne (18-15) – Atlantic 10
Fordham (21-11) – Atlantic 10
Georgetown (17-12) – Big East
Georgia Tech (17-14) – ACC
Harvard (20-8) – Ivy
Indiana (20-10) – Big Ten
Iowa (17-13) – Big Ten
Jacksonville (23-8) – Atlantic Sun
Kent State (19-12) – MAC
Louisiana Tech (18-13) – C-USA
Northern Illinois (21-11) – MAC
Ohio (22-9) – MAC
Ole Miss (17-13) – SEC
Penn State (19-10) – Big Ten
St. John’s (20-11) – Big East
Saint Joseph’s (17-14) – Atlantic 10
Saint Louis (24-8) – Atlantic 10
Saint Mary’s (20-12) – West Coast
South Dakota (22-8) – Summit
South Dakota State (22-8) – Summit
SMU (17-14) – American
Southern Miss (23-10) – C-USA
Tulane (16-14) – American
UNLV (22-10) – Mountain West
UT Arlington (22-8) – Sun Belt
Utah (16-14) – Pac-12
Virginia Tech (17-13) – ACC
Wake Forest (15-15) – ACC
Wyoming (21-9) – Mountain West






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