While Roxanne the piccolo girl plays through the tears of a devastating loss to North Carolina State in the second round, the Villanova women's basketball team has managed to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NIT Tournament.
Unlike the men's NIT, this bracket also features 64 teams, and draws the top team from each conference that was not invited to the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats finished 3rd in the Big East this year, and since DePaul and Seton Hall both made the NCAAs, Villanova was the automatic bid for the NIT this year. Creighton, St. John's, Penn, Drexel and Temple also reached the NIT field.
Bracketing, for all intents and purposes, is a mystery. They do a decent job of splitting the teams up into four regions before seeding them, since all the games are hosted by one of the two teams involved. This allows for teams to not travel across the country before the semifinals. The teams are then generally seeded top to bottom, and matched up so higher-tiered teams play lower-tiered teams, although there is no official seeding.
Villanova has earned (or bidded for) the right to host all three of their games so far. Their first game, a 71-60 win over Maine, was capped by Lauren Burford's 4-4 stretch from beyond the arc in the first half alone. The Wildcats went into halftime with a 40-21 lead. Alex Louin, Caroline Coyer, and Samantha Wilkes each contributed double-digit points in the game.
A second-round matchup against Old Dominion brought together old FCS football rivals again, and the Wildcats triumphed once again. (A surprising number of notable FCS teams made this year's NIT, including Fordham, Richmond, Penn, Maine, etc.). Katherine Coyer, Caroline, Burford and Louin each made consecutive 3-pointers to help turn a back-and-forth game into a 13-point halftime lead.
Old Dominion's Jennie Simms had a scorching second-half as the Monarchs drew to within five points with 2:27 left, but strong defensive possessions by the Wilddcats kept ODU from drawing any closer than three the rest of the way. Simms finished with 29 points, and Emily Leer led Villanova with 23 points on 10-14 shooting.
The Sweet 16 game for Villanova is a game at the Pavilion on Thursday evening against Big East rival St. John's. The Wildcats split two games in the regular season, winning by 12 at home and falling by just five on the road. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals against either Duquesne, Richmond, West Virginia (who beat Buffalo in the first round!) and Hampton.
And if you need any motivation to root for the women's team, consider this: A seminfinal matchup against North Carolina State looms large should each team win two more games. Revenge would be oh so sweet.