Grentz, women denied NCAAs

By Dave Fultz

The Illinois women’s basketball team will head to the WNIT for the third straight season and will have a bye in the first round of the tournament. The Illini will play the winner of the opening-round game between the University of Utah and the University of Montana at 7 p.m on Monday, March 19.

The women’s squad will be heading to the postseason for the 10th time in the last 11 years.

“So much goes into being a good team,” head coach Theresa Grentz said. “A lot of it is luck, but it comes down to hard work and dedication, making key shots, getting calls, recruiting. There are a lot factors that go into being successful.”

The Illini made a run at the NCAA Tournament this season when they finished fourth in the Big Ten behind three ranked teams and ended the season with an 18-10 overall record, 8-8 in conference play. But their bid for the NCAA Tournament fell short Monday night when they were not announced as part of the 64-team field.

“Well, the goal of the season is to get into the NCAAs,” Grentz said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen, and that is disappointing. There is a frustration with that because I think we were very, very close. Now this gives us a chance to go deep into the tournament and learn how to do that.”

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The conference strengthened its position among the elite even further as seven teams, three in the NCAA and four in the WNIT, made the postseason.

“The fact that the conference has seven teams in the postseason is nice. But I’m not going to lie when I say I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t four or five teams from the conference in the NCAAs.”

According to a press release, the WNIT will represent each of the nation’s 31 conferences for the first time ever. The field has been expanded to 48 teams in order to accommodate an automatic berth from each conference. Opening round games will start Wednesday, with 16 teams going into action.

As a team who narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament, Illinois will look to make an impact as one of the stronger teams in the WNIT.

“The key here is to be able to go into this tournament and be able to go deep into it,” Grentz said. “The sky is the limit. If we come and bring our ‘A’ game, I don’t think there is a better team.”