For the men’s and women’s Coug basketball teams, the wait is almost over

Kamie Ethridge and Kyle Smith (Photo: Getty via Icon Sportswire/Stringer & USAToday/Snook)

THE ONLY THING IN WASHINGTON STATE men’s and women’s basketball teams can wait, but in a few hours the wait will be over. Today, both Cougar Hoops teams will learn their playoff fates via the NCAA and NIT tournament selection broadcasts, with both WSU teams targeting different playoff destinations.

The women are seeking an NCAA Tournament bid for the second straight year, something never done before in the program’s history. The men are hoping to receive an NIT invitation — which would bring the Cougars back to the playoffs for the first time since playing in the CBI in 2012. So where are the projections?

On Sunday, ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme, as he has done for the past few days, spots the Cougar women in the Last Four Byes group – in the mix of 64 teams and not having to participate in any of the play matches in the field of 68. In other words, the Cougs have quite a bit of wiggle room according to ESPN. And it would certainly be nice not to have to take part in any of the four qualifying matches.

Creme seeds the Cougs on the No. 11 line — on Sunday, he moved WSU against 6-seeded Ohio State in Knoxville. Considering nearly every team below the Cougars on Creme bubble has played in their respective conference tournaments before, the trend is positive for the Cougars to get back in the game. You can see Saturday’s full ESPN bracketology HERE.

While Washington State’s NET Ranking is not where Kamie Ethridge thinks he should be at No. 58, the Cougars’ 19-10 overall record and 11-6 mark in conference play are important. And so does WSU tied for second in the Pac-12 rankings (an all-time best program). Wazzu’s regular-season standings command a lot of respect nationwide given the long-standing strength of the Pac-12 in women’s basketball, including this season.

If Wazzu were to arrive as an 11 seed when the bracket exited, going up against a No. 6 seed wouldn’t be easy, true, but WSU has beaten a lot of good teams this year including Miami, Gonzaga, Arizona, Colorado and Suite. And if the Cougars put on their dancing shoes, they’ll be looking for their first NCAA Tournament victory, having retired in the first round of previous entries (1991, 2021).

FOR MEN, the NCAA tournament is no longer on the table. After a few disappointing losses and a five-game conference losing streak, WSU’s only chance to go dancing was to win the Pac-12 tournament and the Cougs were ousted by second-seeded UCLA in the second round. . But while the Cougars will have to wait another year to make a run at the Big Dance, the NIT seems to be on the table… maybe.

Many factors work in Wazzu’s favor when it comes to the NIT, including its #61 ranking in the NET. That should be solid compared to the rest of the field – much like his 19-14 record and 11-9 mark in Pac-12 play.

But lack of quality wins looms large on the other side of the equation. The Cougars’ best win is their home thrashing against Colorado in February … but in all honesty, the Buffs were on the final “5 games in 10 days” leg and were shorthanded to start.

As of press time, it depends on who you ask if Wazzu is entering the NIT. Every team that won its conference in the regular season and isn’t selected for the NCAA Tournament is guaranteed an NIT invite — eight teams currently fall into that category.

NIT bracketology doesn’t command as much as NCAA tournament bracketology, but there are those that step out of the abacus and slide rule and dive into:

  • dratings.com has WSU as the No. 7 seed in the NIT (just 24 hours ago, WSU was a 6 seed, as was Tony Bennett’s Virginia team).
  • But barkingcrow.com, considered one of the most trusted sites for NIT bracketology, doesn’t have WSU in the field; victim of automatic auctions.
  • nitbracketology.blogspot.com now has WSU on the outside – 24 hours ago it had Wazzu seeded 8 in the 32-team field.
  • Carolina Sports has WSU in the NIT as the 6th seed

The NIT takes place from March 15 to 31. The first three rounds will be played on campuses, with the semi-finals and championship games being played at Madison Square Garden.

If the Cougars missed the NIT, they would almost certainly get an invite to the CBI. But it’s unclear if Wazzu would agree. Kyle Smith based on previous comments, he would definitely want to play in the CBI and gain some playoff experience for next year. But given the financial outlay, after WSU and everyone else’s athletic department were hammered by the pandemic, would Pat Chun do you want to invest in a CBI tournament?

It’s a $50,000 entry fee and there are no CBI home games this year (so no ticket sales to try to offset fees and expenses). FloHoops will broadcast the CBI first round and quarter-finals, and can only be watched via subscription ($$). Meanwhile, the field usually consists of mid-level mid-level majors. While WSU might be likely (on paper anyway), to go most of the CBI competition, if the 3-pointers don’t fall, Wazzu might be one and done. Conversely, if WSU were to race in the CBI and in addition to the registration fee, transport the team to Daytona Beach as well as hotels, meals, etc. necessary probably accumulates a good part of the change to the tournament that takes place March 19-23 at the Daytona Beach Ocean Center.

COUGAR FANS after a long wait will finally know with certainty the fate of the playoffs of their two basketball teams on Sunday. Here is the timeline.

  • The women’s NCAA tournament selection show is at 5 p.m. and the NIT selection show follows immediately after at 6 p.m. Both shows will be televised on ESPN. The women would definitely make the WNIT if they were to be snubbed by the NCAA Tournament, but that would look like a massive disappointment at this point for a team more than worthy of a Big Dance offer.
  • The NIT men’s selection show is on ESPNU at 6 p.m. The CBI reveals its squad of 16 teams online on Sunday evening.

Related: Defense, shot at WSU drought in 75-65 loss to UCLA, but Smith ‘very optimistic’ for NIT offer