Despite being swept by No. 12 Stanford (17-5, 9-1) and California (16-5, 8-2) over the weekend, the Washington State women’s basketball team (13-8, 4-6) are firmly in the NCAA tournament conversation. The Cougars remained in the NCAA RPI’s top 45 when the updated poll was released on Tuesday, which is right on the tournament bubble.
Washington State is still ranked at 43, according to RPI, despite the fact that the Cougs were blown out by Stanford, and had to overcome a 12 point halftime deficit against Cal. While 43 is dangerous territory for a team trying to make the NCAA tournament; it’s still high enough that if selection day was today, the Cougars would (probably) hear their name called.
Unfortunately, the team’s NCAA tournament resume is primarily built off of its early season upsets — Maryland and Dayton — not over conference opponents. Early season upsets are only going to count for so much come selection day; especially when the committee sees that WSU was unable to hold onto an 11 point lead over Stanford at home, back on January 11th; or was unable to complete the comeback against Cal on Monday (February 2nd).
Cal started off its game against WSU hot against, as the Golden Bears started off the game on a 13-2 run to take a 23-13 lead with six minutes left in the first half. The Cougars were ice-cold from the field in the first half — WSU shot 21.9% — as the Golden Bears took a 31-19 lead into the halftime locker room. WSU came out of the locker room on fire, as the Cougars scored six unanswered points to cut into Cal’s lead. Junior guard Lia Galdeira was a major reason for the Cougars resurgence, as she took control of the offense — Galdeira scored 29 points in the loss. Unfortunately, the junior guard was unable to hit one of her (multiple) three-point shots during the final 30 seconds. And Cal earned a hard-fought 57-54 win at home.
As a fan, this loss hurts because the team was thisssss close to pulling off the upset road win; despite being down so much at the half.
This loss really hurt the Cougars because it was a chance to earn a mid-season resume builder over a consistently good, to great, Cal program. It could have been a win that really stood out to the selection committee as it was considering teams sitting anywhere from 40-50 on the RPI scale; instead it’s a loss that is going to stand out to the committee. And the worst part is, Washington State doesn’t have many more opportunities to pick-up resume builders.
The best team left on the Cougars’ schedule is a home game against Oregon State, which RPI has ranked at No. 9; WSU barely lost to the Beavers in Corvallis, Ore. the last time these two teams met. WSU also gets two cracks at in-state rival Washington (widely overrated by RPI at No. 20) to try and build its resume. It’s going to be critical for the Cougars to pick up a minimum of one win, out of those three, if they are going to be playing in the tournament…especially with the other four opponents left on WSU’s schedule.
Colorado (No. 104), Utah (No. 223), USC (No. 86), and UCLA (No. 82) are also left on the Cougars schedule.