‘Watch party” different for USD women

VERMILLION — There were no well-attended “watch parties.” There was no national TV love. There wasn’t a national audience waiting to see the school’s name on a bracket.

Yet, for the University of South Dakota women’s basketball team, Monday was its own kind of Selection Sunday.

The Coyotes officially received word Monday evening that they earned a bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, more commonly known as the WNIT. It wasn’t exactly a surprise to USD, but there was still some last-minute drama as to what tournament would accept the Coyotes — would it be the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI), the same last year? Or would it be the more prestigious WNIT?

Turns out, the 22-7 regular season and a 12-6 mark in the Summit League put together by USD was worthy enough of a bid. But more than that, it’s what the Coyotes did outside of conference action that may have earned them the requisitive love.

USD defeated three teams — South Dakota State, Creighton and Idaho — that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Coyotes also beat Oral Roberts and Northern Colorado, both teams that earned WNIT automatic bids. Victories like that helped USD to a RPI of 86, second-best in the Summit League.

The fact that the Coyotes will now have made two consecutive Division I post-season appearances heading into next year’s full eligible season in both the Summit League and NCAA shows that the program is “definitely moving in the right direction,” according to head coach Ryun Williams.

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