The first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) began in the Convocation Center on Thursday, and the Ohio Bobcats didn’t want to be there. To be sure, the Bobcat women were not apathetic about the game and didn’t show a lack of effort; it just wasn’t the tournament they wanted to play in.
Ohio (28-5) was one of the first four teams to miss an invite to the NCAA Tournament. A victim of the selection committee’s decision to snub the Bobcats, the women had to settle for the WNIT.
While the WNIT is not where Ohio wanted to be post-season, playing in this tournament and advancing as far as possible remains important for the program. A WNIT banner already hangs in the Convo with Ohio’s two appearances remembered. An appearance in the WNIT does not mark failure
“We’re all angry. We’re all disappointed,” Ohio senior Dominique Doseck said after Ohio’s first round victory Thursday over High Point. “I know for me it was my dream to go to the NCAA since I was 10 years old. To have that completely done, we’re coming out with a chip on our shoulder. We felt like we really deserved it. We felt like we earned it. So now I think we’re trying to prove something.
“I don’t think its fully hit us what a championship in the WNIT would mean,” Doseck continued. “It’s huge for our program, and I think we all have to get that in our head. That’s still a huge accomplishment whether we made the NCAA or not. It would a huge accomplishment for our conference showing we deserve multiple bids.”
The Mid-American Conference received two bids for the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo earned the automatic bid after defeating Ohio in the MAC Tournament finals, and Central Michigan received an at-large bid. Ohio was left looking in while teams such as Tennessee, with less to show from the season but with a bigger name, got the call.
That put the Bobcats as the No. 2 seed on the side of the WNIT bracket with Miami and Ohio State as potential future opponents. Both the RedHawks and the Buckeyes bowed out in the first round, while Ohio defeated High Point 81-74 in a tightly contested game.
The Convocation Center hosted postseason basketball in March, but the attendance was a paltry 567, which included a large showing from High Point. The Panthers even brought their band. The WNIT is not the “big dance,” but it can be vital for small-conference teams to show off their abilities. High Point traveled well and showed that the WNIT is important to its program. It’s important to the Bobcats too, but it would have been nice if the Convo had filled the seats and showed campus and community support.
If the Sunday afternoon matchup (played after The Athens NEWS print deadline for Monday’s issue) with Middle Tennessee works out in Ohio’s favor, the winner of Morehead State and Western Kentucky will visit the hosting Bobcats this coming week. The entire tournament is played at campus sites and Ohio potentially will host until the tournament ends.
Ohio will add another year to its WNIT banner, but a new championship banner would look nicer. The Bobcats can show off a championship banner to recruits, fans, students, opponents or any visitor to the Convocation Center.
The WNIT is not where Ohio wants to be, but that’s water under the bridge. By beating High Point on Thursday, Ohio earned its 28th win, a new program record for wins in a single season.
Every game the rest of the way will be historic for the Bobcats and the overall Ohio Athletics program. Some schools can feel the snub from the NCAA and give a poor effort in the other tournaments, but others take advantage of what they can.
For the Bobcats, the WNIT is a great chance for a very talented Ohio squad to show what it’s capable of doing.