As the regular season winds down, fans begin to anticipate postseason play beginning with the frenzied conclusion of conference tournaments. Since 2010, teams that enjoyed success during the season but did not qualify for the NCAA tournament have had the opportunity to participate in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, a 16-team single-elimination event.
Soon after the NCAA tournament selection show ends, the WBI field is revealed. The selection process for the WBI includes reviewing a team’s overall record, RPI, conference standing as well as quality wins and losses. Programs that participate in the WBI relish the chance to give student-athletes a taste of postseason play.
For teams like last season’s WBI champion, the Yale Bulldogs, the tournament provided numerous benefits that continue to reverberate even a year later. Before the 2017-18 season, the last time Yale appeared in any national postseason tournament was 2011. Under three-year head coach Allison Guth, the Bulldogs set numerous records including winning the most games in a season. The WBI victory gave Yale a program-record 19 wins. The seniors on that historic team left with a championship under their belt and the younger members of the squad gained valuable experience.
Yale earned the WBI Championship on the road at Central Arkansas, a feat that made the victory even more sweet.
"I could not be more proud, to go into an arena and a setting where you're playing a phenomenal team who protects home court the way they do and to have your kids battle, fight," Guth said about the game. "For those three seniors to end on a win and do something this program has never done, it's phenomenal."
For some teams that make the WBI field, participating in the tournament is a crucial part of rebuilding a program. This was the case for the 2017 champions, the Rice Owls. Tina Langley was only in her second year at the helm of the program when the Owls beat UNC-Greensboro for the WBI championship. The title gave the Owls 22 victories on the season, the most since the 2003-04 season. It was also the first winning season for Rice since the 2011-12 campaign.
For Rice’s leading scorer in the game, tournament MVP Maya Hawkins, the WBI Championship was the perfect bookend to her senior year.
“I wouldn't have wanted my career to end any other way,” Hawkins said.
Since winning the WBI, Rice continues to set program records. Currently, the nationally-ranked Owls sit at the top of the Conference USA standings with an undefeated record in league play.
From an economic perspective, the WBI provides teams with the chance to earn some revenue. Host teams can set their own ticket prices and control the rights to radio and live streaming. Schools keep all profits.
No matter how you look at it, postseason play in the WBI brings a wealth of positives for teams. It’s a win-win for fans, student-athletes. In addition, participation in the tournament can instill a sense of pride and accomplishment for teams that simply want to play the game for as long as possible after the regular season ends.
Next in the Series: Highlights of the WBI Tournament Over the Years
The 2019 WBI field will be announced Monday, March 18, the same day the NCAA selects its field of 64 teams. First round WBI games will begin Wednesday and Thursday, March 20 and 21 while second round games are scheduled for Sunday, March 24 and Monday, March 25.
Four teams will advance to the WBI semifinals and will play Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30 with the winners moving on to the title game. The 2019 WBI Championship game will be played either Tuesday, April 2 or Wednesday, April 3. All WBI contests are played at campus sites.
Previous WBI Champions
2010: Appalachian State
2015: Louisiana Lafayette
2016: Louisiana Lafayette