There is still significance left in the season of the Wichita State women’s basketball team, despite it not continuing in the NCAA Tournament.
The Shockers play host to Oral Roberts tonight at Koch Arena in the first round of the 64-team Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
But coach Jody Adams made clear that while the third consecutive postseason berth, a school-best, is to be celebrated this season, her fourth at WSU, it won’t be soon.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling playing in the WNIT versus playing in the NCAA,” Adams said. “We are very grateful we have the opportunity to play, but it is bittersweet for us and that’s a good thing.”
Since Adams’ arrival, Wichita State has been under construction. The Shockers have never played in a NCAA Tournament game or won a conference championship. Adams not only wants to accomplish each, but for those things to be the standard.
“This game is so valuable and nothing can replace this experience,” Adams said. “Building a tradition of postseason play, you can’t measure the value that it does bring to your program.”
A win against Oral Roberts (20-10) would bring tangible value, however. Wichita State (19-12) would tie the school record of 20 wins, achieved in the 1980-81 and 1999-2000 seasons. It would also mark the first win in four tries in the WNIT for the Shockers.
Adams has already led Wichita State to its highest three-year win total (54) in program history.
Oral Roberts enters with a similar RPI (116) and wins over top-100 opponents (three) as Wichita State (111, two).
But Oral Roberts hopes its trump card is junior guard Kevi Luper, a three-time Summit League Player of the Year. Her averages rank fourth in the NCAA in scoring (24.0) and steals (3.8).
“I see a combination of Carli Tritz from Creighton and Casey Garrison from Missouri State,” Adams said. “I think she has the athleticism of Carli and the pure ability of scoring the ball of Garrison.”
After seeing its NCAA hopes crumble at the hands of Drake in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, Wichita State hopes to gather a handful of feel-good victories before heading into next season.
“At this point of the season, you are who you are,” Adams said. “It’s your philosophy versus their philosophy. It’s who executes the best and philosophies at this time of the year.”