Chattanooga, Delaware also accept bids
Gonzaga, Chattanooga and Delaware will get a chance to add to their impressive victory totals, just not where they wanted.
All three accepted invitations Sunday to play in the Women's NIT after being left out of the NCAA Tournament despite glossy records.
Gonzaga (27-3) will host BYU (19-10) in a first-round game Wednesday, Chattanooga (24-4) will be at home against Villanova (19-11) on Friday and Delaware (25-5) entertains St. John's (19-10) on Thursday.
Villanova, which tied for fourth in the Big East, was another team that thought it had a good chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament. Other NCAA "bubble" teams that ended up in the WNIT included Iowa of the Big Ten, Xavier of the Atlantic 10 and Southwest Missouri State, the regular-season Missouri Valley champion.
Gonzaga had seemed to be headed for its first NCAA Tournament appearance when it rolled to a 14-0 record in the West Coast Conference and earned the program's first national ranking. But the 'Zags were upset by Santa Clara in the finals of the conference tournament and that was enough to keep them out of the NCAAs.
"It took me by surprise," coach Kelly Graves said. "I knew it was going to be touch-and-go, but this was a season of so many firsts. We dominated the league like no other team in the conference."
Gonzaga men's coach Mark Few, whose team did make the NCAA Tournament, reacted even more sharply to the women's omission.
"Obviously, you've got some people on the women's committee that don't know what the heck they're doing," Few said. "They need to get some basketball people on there. That was unbelievable."
Chattanooga and Delaware also lost in their conference tournaments after winning the regular-season championships. Chattanooga went 19-1 in the Southern Conference, finishing five games ahead of runner-up Davidson. Delaware finished a game ahead of Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Iowa (20-9) thought it was NCAA-bound after finishing sixth in the Big Ten at 8-8. But only five Big Ten teams got in so the Hawkeyes will host Creighton (19-9) of the Missouri Valley Conference in a WNIT game on Friday.
Xavier (20-9) travels to Western Kentucky (20-9) on Wednesday, while Southwest Missouri State hosts SMU (19-10) on Thursday.
All WNIT games are played at campus sites. Second-round games are scheduled for March 19-21.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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