BY JEREMY HOECK
Three weeks ago, the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team was licking its wounds from consecutive road losses to North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
In five games since, the Coyotes have been rolling.
Keyed by a 5-game winning streak (including a win Saturday over UMKC), USD stands at 15-6 overall and 7-5 in the Summit League.
And with eight games — 6 in conference — left, the Coyotes have plenty of chances to boost their resume for a post-season bid.
Though USD is not eligible for the Summit League Championships, the program is again eligible for other post-season tournaments. Last season, remember, USD earned a spot in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) with a 19-11 regular season record.
A significant step up in competition this season could favor the Coyotes, as long as they keep winning.
One possibility for USD would be the WNIT, which awards automatic and at-large berths. In order to gain an automatic bid, the Coyotes would have to be the highest-finishing team in the Summit League regular season standings and then not selected for the NCAA Tournament. A total of 33 other schools will receive at-large bids, based heavily on RPI rankings — as long as they have a winning record.
As of right now, USD boasts an RPI of 98, second in the Summit League to SDSU at No. 69. Those two teams will face each other again next Monday in Vermillion, giving the Coyotes a chance to really improve that ranking.
Working in favor of USD’s prospects for WNIT bid is that the Summit League has a strong history of qualifying teams for that tournament. The conference has sent a team to the WNIT each of the past six seasons, including Oral Roberts which advanced to the third round last season.
USD coach Ryun Williams said three weeks ago when he was in Yankton that his program is on the radar of some of these post-season tournaments. As long as the Coyotes keep winning and maybe pick up another “big” win down the stretch, their chances are fairly good.