Eleven of the 16 teams are coming off of postseason berths. The field features Davidson, Delaware, Duquesne, Georgetown, Grambling State, Illinois State, Iowa, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, Morehead State, North Carolina, Northern Illinois, Sacred Heart, and Sam Houston State.
The Preseason WNIT kicks off the women’s college basketball season and will be played Nov. 9-18 in a 3-game guarantee championship format. The bracket will be announced July 17. Here’s a snapshot of the field:
– Davidson returns its top four players from a 22-9 team that shared top honors in the Southern Conference and played in the Postseason WNIT. Michele Savage (SoCon Coach of the Year) led the team to its best conference showing in school history, and returns SoCon Player of the Year Sophia Aleksandravisius and first-teamer Laura Murray.
– Delaware is the hands-on favorite to repeat as Colonial champs and make a postseason run with All-American Elena Delle Donne returning for her final season with the starting lineup intact. Delle Donne led the nation last year in scoring, averaging 28.1 points a game for the 31-2 Blue Hens, who finished the season ranked 14th in the country.
– Duquesne returns four starters from a 20-12 team that advanced to the postseason and chalked up its fourth straight 20-win season. The defensive-minded Dukes have played in the postseason four straight years.
– Georgetown welcomes back All-American Sugar Rodgers, who led the Big East in scoring with 18.5 points a game during conference play. The Hoyas (23-9) finished the season ranked 17th in the nation and were ranked in the Top 25 all year.
– Grambling State new head coach Patricia Bibbs returns to her alma mater and will have three starters back from a 15-15 team out of the Southwestern Conference. Bibbs is the only coach in the country to amass at least 500 wins at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and returns to a program that she built with eight conference titles in her previous 13 years there.
– Illinois State has made six straight trips to the postseason, and returns four starters from a 19-13 team that took second in the Missouri Valley after being picked to finish sixth. Stephanie Glance was named the conference Coach of the Year after leading the Redbirds to their sixth straight season of finishing first or second in conference play, and Jamie Russell was named the conference Newcomer of the Year.
– Iowa hopes to get back leading scorer Jaime Printy in time for the start of the Preseason WNIT, after Printy tore her ACL in February. The rest of the team picked it up when Printy went down, though, as the Hawkeyes (19-12, 11-5) won their final eight conference games to finish second in the Big Ten Conference. Lisa Bluder has led Iowa to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
– Kennessaw State gets all five starters back after advancing to the Atlantic Sun Tournament semifinal round. Nitra Perry replaces retired Colby Tilley, and A-Sun Freshman of the Year Taylor Mills returns for the Lady Owls (14-17 a year ago).
– Liberty head coach Carey Green took the Flames to their 13th conference crown and set a Big South record for most league wins along the way with a 16-2 conference mark. Liberty gets three starters back from that 24-9 team, including first-teamer Devon Brown and Big South All-Freshman Reagan Miller.
– Memphis has had three straight 20-win seasons, including last year’s 25-8 mark and 13-3 record for a second-place finish in Conference USA. The 25 wins under coach Melissa McFerrin are the program’s most wins in 30 years.
– Middle Tennessee won another Sun Belt title with a perfect 16-0 record, and finished 26-7 overall on the way to its sixth NCAA showing in the past seven years. Rick Insell’s teams have posted 20-win seasons all seven years, and this fall could be the beginning of another, with all five starters back on the court.
– Morehead State graduated two seniors from a 10-19 team that looks to be stronger this year in the Ohio Valley Conference with the addition of a strong recruiting class.
– North Carolina gets its top two scorers and rebounders back from a 20-11 program that has won four ACC titles in the last eight years. Coach Sylvia Hatchell will enter her 27th season as one of just four Division I coaches with 800 wins.
– Northern Illinois (14-17) was young last year under second-year head coach Kathi Bennett, but returns the bulk of its scoring and rebounding this fall with three starters back on the court and only two seniors gone from a still-young lineup.
– Sacred Heart returns four starters from a 25-8 team that won the Northeastern Conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers have finished in the top three every year in conference play in the last 12 years under Ed Swanson.
– Sam Houston is coming off of postseason play after earning an 18-12 overall record and 12-4 mark in the Southland Conference. The Bearkats won the West Division championship by posting the school’s most league wins in more than a decade. The future is bright, too, with the top four players returning for coach Brenda Nichols.
The Preseason WNIT features a three-game guarantee format. The event opens Nov. 9 with first-round games. Second-round games will be played Nov. 11; semifinals will be Nov. 14-15; and the championship is set for Sunday, Nov. 18. Teams that lose in the first two rounds will play consolation games on the second weekend, Nov. 16-17. All games are hosted by participating schools.
In last year’s Preseason WNIT, No. 1 Baylor defeated No. 2 Notre Dame on its way to history’s only perfect 40-0 season.