The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship game will be played this afternoon, while the semifinals were played Saturday night. For the first time in eight years, the Kentucky’s women’s basketball team did not make an appearance in the semifinal round. The quarterfinal loss also means the Cats will break their eight-year streak of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Before the SEC Tournament departure, Coach Matthew Mitchell remained confident in his team’s right to play in the post season.
“You look at some teams that are going to the NCAA tournament, we’re right there with them, very competitive in games,” Mitchell said. “If you’re getting just completely blown out and the team looks like it kind of on its last leg, then you think about not playing. I would say our team has worked really hard.”
But no matter how hard the team worked, they weren’t quite able to deliver in the SEC Tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their 6-10 conference record also means the Wildcats will not play in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament – the SEC’s automatic bid will go to Alabama. It’s worth noting Kentucky beat Alabama twice this season (79-54 at home back in January and 71-64 in the first round of the SEC Tournament last Thursday afternoon). Unfortunately for the Cats, the Tide finished the season just one SEC win ahead of UK, therefore guaranteeing them a spot in the WNIT.
So what’s next for UK Hoops? Their most likely remaining option is the Women’s Basketball Invitational. The WBI is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament with games played on the home court of the team with the higher ranking. Kentucky would be the first SEC team to compete in the WBI since the tournament’s birth in 2010. Still, Mitchell just wants his players to have a chance to compete.
“We will definitely look for opportunities to play,” Mitchell said last weekend. “In my mind, as long as the team keeps coming with great energy at practice, and working hard, I would love for them to have an opportunity to play.”
Selections for the WBI will be announced alongside NCAA and WNIT brackets on Selection Monday. The first round will be played the following Wednesday and Thursday.