A long day of waiting ended with good news for the University of Arizona women’s basketball team: The Wildcats’ postseason drought is over.
After eight years of no postseason play for the Wildcats, Monday was a big day for the program as the UA found out it will host Idaho State (20-10) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the 64-team WNIT.
If the Wildcats win Thursday, they will host the winner of Fresno State/Pacific, who play Wednesday. The second-round game would most likely be Saturday.
The UA and Idaho State faced off on Nov. 9, with the Wildcats winning 71-46 in the season opener at McKale Center. Idaho State hasn’t played in the postseason in six years.
Monday’s long day of waiting was made even longer due to a leaked NCAA bracket.
Someone at ESPNU put out the brackets two hours early — affecting viewing parties and ESPN’s own tournament breakdown and analysis show.
This was when Arizona, which finished 18-13 and upset two ranked teams, found out it was on the wrong side of the bubble.
Then the UA had to wait for the WNIT to release its field of 64 teams at 6 p.m. ... although another audible made that 5 p.m. instead.
That’s when the UA found out it was the only Pac-12 team invited to the WNIT.
Next, Arizona had to wait a bit longer — nearly three hours after more delays — to find out if it was hosting a game and who the opponent would be.
Arizona coach Adia Barnes said she has never seen anything like this, with the bracket being leaked and the excessive waiting, yet despite the craziness of the day, when the news came it was sweet.
“We are really excited. It’s been 18 years since we’ve hosted a postseason and eight years since we’ve played in the postseason,” said Barnes. “I’m really happy for the program. The players have worked hard to get here to this point. Last year we were done at this time.
“It was a long and stressful day, but we are really happy … and it’s big to host. It’s big for Tucson, so everyone needs to come out to support us. Our goal is to have 5,000 fans on Thursday.”
If Arizona wins Thursday, draws enough fans and continues to be a higher seed, it would keep hosting games.
In the midst of a rebuild, this Wildcats team has already won 12 more games than last season — the biggest turnaround in program history. It was also the first winning season for the program since the 2010-11 season — the last time UA made the postseason, also when it played in the WNIT.
The Wildcats took two top 10 teams — Stanford and Oregon State — to the brink this year before falling just short. The UA also had an 11-game winning streak early on, another program-best.
Arizona is led by Aari McDonald, the third-leading scorer in the nation and the program's single-season scoring leader with 774 points. She is one of two players — along with former UW teammate Kelsey Plum — in Pac-12 history to score more than 750 points and dish out at least 130 assists in one season.