By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
While most of the college basketball world gets caught up in the hysteria of the opening week of March Madness, the University of Washington’s Hec Edmundson Pavilion has become NIT Central.
The UW women’s team found out Monday night, albeit a little later than coach Kevin McGuff expected, that it would join the men’s team in hosting a game in the National Invitational Tournament. The Husky women will host Cal Poly in a women’s NIT game at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m excited for the (four) seniors,” McGuff said late Monday night, after hearing a little before 9 p.m. that the Huskies (17-13) were back in the postseason for only the second time since 2007. “They set the tone well this year, and they deserve to be in postseason play. It allows us to get back with a lot of momentum as the program moves forward. It’s a great day.”
UW’s only other venture into postseason play in a national tournament over the past five years came when the Huskies played in the less prestigious Women’s Basketball Invitational in 2010. Three years earlier, during what would turn out to be coach June Daugherty’s final season, UW made it to the first round of the NCAA tournament.
McGuff, who is in his first season at UW, said making it to the NIT was a good step for the Huskies.
“I hope this is just the beginning for our program,” he said. “One of our goals for this season was to get into postseason play. Hopefully, we’ll look back on this as the start of what we’re trying to get accomplished here.”
McGuff added that he was “cautiously optimistic” before the announcement, which he received via e-mail late Monday night.
The Huskies seem to be peaking at the right time, with a 4-2 record since Feb. 19 that included losses to NCAA tournament No. 1 seed Stanford and USC, one of the final teams left out of the Big Dance.
“I think we’re playing well at the right time,” McGuff said, “and I hope it carries over to Wednesday.”
This marks the first time since 2003-04 that the Huskies have hosted a WNIT game. UW beat Pepperdine and lost to Creighton in that season’s tournament.
The UW men host Texas-Arlington in an NIT game tonight. There’s a possibility that the Husky men, should they win, could host a second-round game Thursday, meaning Hec Ed could have three consecutive nights of NIT action.