A day it was possible to conceive would never come again finally has: the Washington State Cougars women’s basketball team is dancing again, having been selected as a No. 9 seed for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
It’s been 30 years since Wazzu last made it to the dance but that decades long drought came to an abrupt halt on Monday afternoon. Just a few minutes into ESPN’s selection show, WSU was revealed as the No. 9 seed in the Mercado region; they’ll take on the South Florida Bulls on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
The moment @WSUCougarWBB learned they made the 2021 NCAA Tournament field. It’s the Cougars’ first appearance since 1991. A hallmark season will culminate with the Big Dance. pic.twitter.com/Z023TlUOGk— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) March 15, 2021
If WSU can get past South Florida, they’ll face No. 1 seed North Carolina State in the second round.
Just three seasons into the massive reclamation project that is WSU’s women’s basketball, head coach Kamie Ethridge has them in the dance for the first time since 1991. The Cougs had come close in the final few seasons under former head coach June Daugherty, making it as far as the Women’s NIT semifinals in 2017. This is just the second appearance for the program in the tournament and a win over South Florida would be their first. Here’s the full bracket:
The Cougs were also ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in program history this season, squeaking in at No. 25 after beating the Arizona Wildcats on January 10th.
It would be difficult to apply enough superlatives to the work of Ethridge and her staff in getting this team turned around so quickly. The program has historically been one of the worst at WSU but the staff still attracted players who are already among the best the school has ever seen, including the conference’s Freshman of the Year in Charlisse Leger-Walker. The team beat top-25 opponents three times this season, including two wins over top-10 schools and nearly notched a third. They also managed to bounce back after a nearly devastating late season skid threatened their postseason hopes, dispatching the Utah Utes twice and completing the season sweep of the Washington Huskies to secure their place in the tournament.
The only shame is that we have to wait until Sunday night to see if this superb season can continue for Washington State.