UMass basketball: Minutewomen earn first-round WNIT home game against Albany

  • UMass guard Sydney Taylor (1), left, drives to the hoop defended by Richmond’s Siobhan Ryan (32) earlier this season at the Mullins Center in Amherst. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 3/13/2023 7:34:57 PM
Modified: 3/13/2023 7:34:37 PM

The UMass women’s basketball team fell just short of its goal of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, but the program will still play postseason basketball. 

The Minutewomen earned an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), and found out their first opponent on Monday when the full bracket was released. UMass will host the University of Albany on Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center in the opening round of the 64-team field.

UMass was named as one of the first four teams out of the NCAA tournament on Sunday night alongside Columbia, Kansas and Oregon.

“I thought that the (NCAA) committee did a really nice job, to be honest with you. I had us right where we were picked. It's unfortunate, but we didn't take care of business at Saint Louis (in the regular season),” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said on Monday. “Now we're in the WNIT and I'm excited about it. This is the sixth time that we have the opportunity to play in the postseason in the history of the program and that's a big deal. It may not be the tournament that we want it to be in, of course, we want to be in NCAA tournament, but that didn't happen.” 

Last season, two Atlantic 10 teams qualified for the NCAA tournament – UMass, which earned an automatic bid with its A10 tournament victory, and Dayton, the regular season champion and favorite heading into the conference tournament. This year, only A10 champion Saint Louis, which beat UMass in the title game, earned a bid to the Big Dance.

“It goes to show you for mid-majors, you’ve got to be perfect. Power five schools, you don't have to be perfect. If we're a power five school and we had the type of season that we had, we would be in,” Verdi said. “But unfortunately for mid-majors, you’ve got to be almost perfect.” 

Though the Billikens were the only A10 team to make the NCAA tourney field, four other conference schools in addition to UMass earned spots in the WNIT – Rhode Island, Fordham, Richmond and Saint Joseph’s. It’s possible that UMass will have to face at least one of those teams in the WNIT – if the Minutewomen win their first two games, they could meet either URI or Richmond in the Round of 16.

Also on the same side of the bracket is Columbia, one of the other first four teams out of the NCAA tournament. If Columbia and UMass win out, they would meet in the tournament quarterfinals. The two teams also clashed in the regular season, where Columbia bested UMass 83-74 at the Mullins Center. 

Taylor heating up

Verdi said that the team took a few days off after the A10 tournament to rest, time that benefited senior guard Sydney Taylor more than perhaps anyone else. Taylor, who fractured a bone under her eye during the final game of the regular season and played through the injury during the A10 tournament, has looked good in practices, according to Verdi.

“I think that her eye looks really good. It's still on the mend. You can still obviously see some residual, if you will, but as far as the healing process, I think she looks good on the court,” Verdi said. “She’s been aggressive here in the last couple of days in practice. She's been herself, so that was good to see.” 

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