Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Razorbacks earn bid to the WNIT
Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors reacts during the first half of a women's Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball tournament game against Georgia, Thursday, March 7, 2019, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas women's basketball team may have been passed over for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament, but the season's not over.
The Razorbacks (20-14) will host Houston on Thursday in Walton Arena in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Tip-off time will be announced today.
Arkansas is the lone SEC team in the WNIT's 64-team field after seven conference schools were selected to the NCAA Tournament. The WNIT Championship Game is scheduled for April 6.
Should they win, the Razorbacks would face the Troy-Alabama-Birmingham winner in the second round. In addition, Texas-Arlington, a team Arkansas beat on the road at the buzzer, could be a possible third-round foe.
The Razorbacks were one of eight teams who were still in the running for the final four spots in the NCAA Tournament, but SEC foes Tennessee and Auburn were taken Monday afternoon, along with Indiana and Central Florida.
Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors said Sunday that just being in the discussion for an at-large bid was progress in his second season. The Razorbacks won just 13 games in each of the previous two seasons. Arkansas went 13-18 and 3-13 in the SEC a year ago.
"Put in perspective the fact that I don't think anybody expected us to be talked about in Year Two, but we are," Neighbors said. "I want to embrace that."
The Cougars (15-15) lost in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals and finished the season on a four-game losing streak.
The WNIT has been in existence since 1998, starting as a 16-team event and expanding to 32 in 1999. Arkansas defeated Wisconsin in the finals in 1999. The tournament field grew to 64 teams in 2010.
Arkansas put itself into a position for a possible NCAA at-large bid thanks to an incredible run to the SEC final, despite being a No. 10 seed. The Razorbacks defeated Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament before losing to Mississippi State.
Arkansas also had a big victory at Tennessee on Jan. 21 but lost to Auburn, 75-72 in Walton Arena on Feb. 10.
The Razorbacks also lost eight of their last nine regular-season games and finished 6-10 in the SEC.
Sports on 03/19/2019
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