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A Look at the Preseason WNIT
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Five years to the day after the Liberty women's basketball team dropped a 73-62 decision at Cincinnati in the opening round of its last Preseason WNIT appearance, the Lady Flames will tip off their third trip to the Preseason WNIT. For the first time, Liberty will host a game in the tournament, as it welcomes Commonwealth foe VCU to the Vines Center for the 2008-09 season opener, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.
Much has changed since the Lady Flames last played a Preseason WNIT contest. For example, Liberty's five freshmen were in eighth grade when Liberty and Cincinnati faced off at the Bearcats' Fifth Third Arena. The tournament format has also undergone major revisions since then. In 2003, the Preseason WNIT was a single-elimination event. Now, all participating teams are guaranteed to play at least three contests. A closer look at the new Preseason WNIT format follows.
What are the possible tournament scenarios for the Lady Flames?
Scenario 1 – Liberty wins each of its first three games, advancing to the Preseason WNIT title contest.
If the higher-rated teams prevail, this scenario would see Liberty defeat VCU on Nov. 14, No. 4/6 North Carolina on Nov. 16 and No. 22 Xavier on Nov. 19 or 20. The Lady Flames would then face No. 4/7 Oklahoma on Nov. 23 in the title game. This is the only scenario in which Liberty would play four Preseason WNIT contests.
Scenario 2 – Liberty wins its first two games but loses in the semifinal round.
Again, if the higher-rated teams prevail, this scenario would see Liberty defeat VCU on Nov. 14 and No. 4/6 North Carolina on Nov. 16. The Lady Flames would then lose against No. 22 Xavier on Nov. 19 or 20, in a rematch of the 2007 National City Xavier Invitational championship game. Having played three games, Liberty's tournament run would be complete.
Scenario 3 – Liberty wins its first game but loses its second contest.
If the higher-rated teams prevail, this scenario would see Liberty defeat VCU on Nov. 14 and lose to No. 4/6 North Carolina on Nov. 16. To complete its third Preseason WNIT game, the Lady Flames would face one of the other three losing teams from the second round on either Nov. 21 or 22, in a single consolation contest. Likely opponents include Ball State, Illinois State, Indiana and Middle Tennessee State.
Scenario 4 – Liberty loses its opening game to VCU.
If VCU defeats the Lady Flames on Nov. 14, Liberty would be placed in a four-team "consolation bracket quad," to be played out at one of the participating teams' home court, the weekend of Nov. 21-23. The first day of the bracket would feature a pair of contests. Day two would see the two winning teams from the previous day paired up and the two losing teams matched up.
Big South member Radford experienced Scenario 4 in its trip to the Preseason WNIT last season. The Highlanders lost their opening-round contest at TCU. As a result, Radford traveled to Miami (Ohio) for a four-team consolation bracket, along with the host RedHawks, Marshall and IUPUI. Radford lost its first consolation game against Miami, before bouncing back to beat Marshall the next day.
Is the Preseason WNIT Final Four played at Madison Square Garden?
No. All Preseason WNIT games are contested at home sites.
Will Liberty host any Preseason WNIT games after the first-round contest against VCU?
Preseason WNIT host sites are announced on a round-by-round basis, after each round's games have all been completed.
How tough is this year's Preseason WNIT field?
Let's look at the participants by the numbers.
2008-09 Preseason Top 25 teams (4): No. 4/6 North Carolina, No. 4/7 Oklahoma, No. 17/18 Arizona State and No. 22 Xavier
2008 NCAA Tournament Participants (8): Arizona State, Cleveland State, Illinois State, Liberty, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Robert Morris and Xavier
2008 Postseason WNIT Participants (4): Indiana, Middle Tennessee State, VCU and Western Carolina
20-Win Teams in 2007-08 (10): Arizona State, Illinois State, Liberty, Middle Tennessee State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Robert Morris, VCU, Western Carolina and Xavier
How has Liberty fared in its previous WNIT appearances?
Liberty's first Preseason WNIT appearance came on Nov. 15, 1999, in Carey Green's first game as the Lady Flames' head coach. Liberty dropped a 60-45 opening-round decision at Virginia Tech, despite 13 points, three assists and three steals by senior guard Sarah Wilkerson.
As mentioned above, the Lady Flames also played in the 2003 Preseason WNIT, facing Cincinnati in the opening round. Junior guard Daina Staugaitiene led three Liberty players in double figures, tallying 15 points, six rebounds and six assists. However, the Bearcats shot 51.9 percent from the field in their 73-62 triumph.