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Falcons don’t make NCAA Tournament, playing in WNIT

Jill+Stein+looks+to+pass+the+ball+in+their+MAC+Tournament+loss+to+Ball+State.+The+Falcons+finished+the+season+with+a+record+of+27-4.
Anthony Malinak

Jill Stein looks to pass the ball in their MAC Tournament loss to Ball State. The Falcons finished the season with a record of 27-4.

Selection Monday can be an emotional rollercoaster for all women’s basketball teams, especially those who are on the bubble.

BG did not receive an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, failing to make the field of 64 to compete for a national title in the sport’s biggest postseason tournament.

The Falcons were listed as the first team in ESPN’s First Four Out, a list of the first four teams to miss the tournament.

Head coach Jennifer Roos said the time leading up to Monday’s selection was an “emotional rollercoaster” for her team. She said she heard multiple contradictory statements from experts saying they would and would not be selected into the field of 64.

Ultimately, Roos said she and her team were disappointed with the tournament committee’s selection to leave out the Falcons, saying they did not know what more they could have done to improve their resume.

“With that said, it is what it is. You’re number 65, not number 64 so we’re going to make the most of it,” Roos said. “Bottom line is, I believe the NCAA selection committee is set up to make objective decisions, yet it never fails that from year to year there’s a lot of subjectivity involved.”

BG senior Jillian Halfhill said that not seeing their name come up on the television last night in the field announcement was a big disappointment.

“Emotionally-wise, last night was terrible, but it’s a new day,” Halfhill said. “You have to wake up and you’ve got to move on.”

Though they did not make the NCAA tournament, the Falcons did guarantee themselves a spot in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament by winning the Mid-American Conference regular-season title.

The Falcons are familiar with the WNIT, having advanced to the third round of the tournament last season before losing to Drexel, the team that went on to win the WNIT championship. Roos said that experience will be beneficial for her team.

“Don’t get me wrong, anybody is capable of making a run in this tournament, but having experience in this tournament is definitely a positive,” she said.

Now, the Falcons will look to make a run in the WNIT to prove they deserved to be in the NCAA tournament in the first place.

The 27-4 Falcons were given a five seed in the WNIT tournament and earned a first-round home game. BG will host High Point University on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Panthers, enter the matchup with an overall record of 22-10. Like the Falcons, the Panthers clinched the automatic WNIT bid by winning the Big South Conference regular-season conference title with a record of 16-4.

Halfhill is thankful to be continuing her time in a Falcon uniform, but said her team will take not being selected into the NCAA tournament as a challenge to prove themselves.

“It’s exciting to play High Point on Thursday and we have the chance to make a run,” Halfhill said. “If we win the WNIT then, hey, look at us, the 65th best team in the nation. You’ve got to take it as a positive.”

Roos said she is familiar with High Point’s program, being that she applied to and was offered a job years ago as an assistant coach at the university. She said as soon as the announcement came out, she downloaded every game of High Point’s and started watching them this morning.

Both Roos and Halfhill said they were excited to be coming back to the Stroh Center on Thursday. Roos said that fan emails revealed that the Falcon faithful may be just as excited. Most emails wished the team the best of luck with Monday’s selection, but saying they may be more hopeful to see them receive a WNIT bid so they could return to the Stroh.

“It’s a different type of community … everybody you see on the street feels like a family member,” Roos said. “I want them to enjoy playing in front of their family one more time.”

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