March 13, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 40-team Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament field was unveiled Monday evening, pitting UC Santa Barbara against Fresno State in preliminary round action on Thursday, March 16. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. in FSU's Save Mart Center.
The winner of the Gaucho-Bulldog showdown advances play UNLV in the first round on Saturday, March 18, with the host team yet to be determined. The Postseason WNIT will be held on campuses of participating schools through the championship round, with the entire event concluding by Friday, March 31.
UCSB - playing in the postseason for an 11th consecutive year - earned a spot in the WNIT by virtue of winning a share of the Big West Conference regular season championship and then earning a No. 1 seed in last week's league tournament. The Postseason WNIT expanded to 40 teams in 2006 to accommodate a specific goal - to give more playing opportunities to schools which win their regular-season conference title but don't capture an NCAA Tournament automatic bid or at-large berth.
In 2005-06, the Gauchos captured their 11th straight Big West crown, extending the second-longest streak of consecutive conference championships by any team in the nation. Santa Barbara will carry a 16-13 overall record into the WNIT, most recently falling 59-58 to UC Riverside in the Big West Tournament finals on Saturday, March 11. UCSB had captured the previous nine league tourney titles, earning itself an equal number of NCAA Tournament appearances dating back to 1997.
Santa Barbara is making its second appearance in the Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament, with the first coming in 1996 when it was an eight-team event held in Amarillo, Texas. There the Gauchos suffered a 77-73 overtime loss to LSU before rebounding with victories over Western Kentucky (77-61) and Illinois State (69-68) to win the consolation bracket. UCSB has also enjoyed success in its two Preseason WNIT appearances, advancing to the championship game in 2000 and semifinals in 2004; both of those tournaments featured 16-team fields.
On Thursday the Gauchos will face a Fresno State squad that can boast a 22-7 overall record and second-place Western Athletic Conference finish but was upset 74-66 by New Mexico State in the league tournament quarterfinals on March 8. UCSB and FSU were formerly rivals in the Big West, with the Bulldogs holding a 17-8 advantage in the all-time series. The last meeting occurred on Dec. 15, 1993, with Fresno State winning 70-63 on its home court. Interestingly, the Gauchos' last postseason appearance also occurred in the Save Mart Center, where they fell 61-51 to Notre Dame in the opening round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
Tickets in the Gaucho fan section are now available by calling the UCSB Athletic Ticket Office at (805) 893-8272 before 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. After that time, tickets can be purchased at Save Mart Center Box Office and Ticketmaster beginning Wednesday, March 15. The Save Mart Center Box Office is open Monday-Friday 9:30am-4:30pm. Tickets can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com or by phone at 485-TIXS. Prices are as follows:
$8 - Reserved
$6 - General Admission Adults
$4 - General Admission Seniors (65+)/Youth (2-18 yrs of age)