FGCUAthletics.com
Women's Basketball to Host USF in First Round of WNIT
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles will face the University of South Florida of the Big East Conference in the first round of the Postseason Women's National Invitational Tournament on March 21 at Alico Arena. The announcement was made late on Monday, March 17.

The Eagles, who posted a 21-8 overall record to date, earned the automatic bid to the WNIT after finishing second in the A-Sun regular season and will participate in the tournament for the first time in program history.

By earning a spot in the WNIT, the Eagles became the first team in history to play in the WNIT in their first year as a Division I program. No current A-Sun team has won a post-season game as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The last A-Sun team to win a post-season game was FIU in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, where the Panthers defeated Marquette 59-45. FIU was also the last A-Sun team to win a game in the WNIT. The Panthers defeated Butler 79-75 (OT) in the first round of the 1993 WNIT.

USF, FGCU’s first round opponent, holds a 16-15 record, a 5-11 league record and a 3-7 road record. The Bulls fell in the quarterfinals of Big East Conference to NCAA Tournament participant, West Virginia. The Eagles have never faced USF in women’s basketball.

Smesko and the Eagles are currently 9-5 (.643) in non-conference play and 11-2 (.846) overall at home this season.

The Women's National Invitation Tournament is an annual tournament involving 48 of the nation's top women's Division I basketball teams. All games, including the semifinals and championship, are hosted by participating schools at their home facility. Every round is single elimination.

The Postseason WNIT features 16 first-round games, followed by 16 second-round games, eight third-round games, four quarterfinal games, two semifinal games, and the championship. The championship game is televised. The event offers 31 automatic berths, one to each conference, and 17 at-large berths. The WNIT field and bracket is announced late on the evening of the NCAA Tournament selections.

The 48-team tournament is a single-elimination event with all games played at sites of host schools. The WNIT is committed to offering deserved opportunities to women's basketball programs, and the tournament expanded to 48 teams in 2007. For the first time in history, each of the nation's 31 conferences was guaranteed a spot in the Postseason WNIT. At the same time, those automatic berths did not affect the number of deserving at-large teams, which has stayed around 17 throughout the years.

Game times will be announced Tuesday, March 18, by the WNIT. For more information, visit the Web site at www.womensnit.com.

This year’s field features five teams from the Big 10, four teams from the Big East and four teams from SEC. Other conferences that got more than one team in the field were the Big 12 and Missouri Valley (three each), and the Sun Belt, Atlantic 10, ACC, and Colonial (two each).

Here are the 48 teams in the tournament:
Automatic Berths
American (Patriot), Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt), Boise State (WAC), Boston College (ACC), Bowling Green (Mid-American), Charlotte (Atlantic 10), Colorado (Big 12), Dartmouth (Ivy), Evansville (Missouri Valley), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), Gonzaga (West Coast), Idaho State (Big Sky), Iona (Metro Atlantic), James Madison (Colonial), Kentucky (SEC), Marquette (Big East), Michigan State (Big Ten), North Carolina A&T (MEAC), Quinnipiac (Northeast), Prairie View A&M (SWAC),
Radford (Big South), South Dakota State (Summit), Southeast Missouri (Ohio Valley), Southern Miss (C-USA), TCU (Mountain West), Texas State (Southland), UC Davis (Big West), Vermont (America East), Western Carolina (Southern), Wisconsin-Green Bay (Horizon)

At-Large Berths
Dayton, Drake, Creighton, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi State, MTSU, NC State, South Carolina, South Florida, St. John’s, Texas Tech, Villanova, Virginia Comm., Wisconsin

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Ashley Haegele, Shannon Murphy and FGCU staff check the WNIT website for updates.

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Coach Smesko and the FGCU Sports Information staff check the WNIT Bracket