While watching the conclusion of the Selection Show from her couch, Tonya Cardoza was not surprised.
For the fifth consecutive season, Temple (20-11, 13-5 American Athletic Conference) failed to reach the NCAA Tournament, and the Owls will participate in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the second straight year.
“We knew we would probably end up back in the WNIT unless a miracle happened,” the eight-year Temple coach said. “We control our own destiny, and I don’t think we did enough.”
On Monday, the Owls held their normal practice before heading home to watch their postseason fate unfold.
“We sort of knew it was probably a long shot,” Cardoza said. “The last thing I wanted us to do is have us sit in there and not hear our names selected.”
According to Christine Dawson of the NCAA selection committee, the first four teams that missed the tournament, in no order, were the University of Iowa, North Carolina State University, the University of Texas El Paso and Ohio University. Purdue University, one of the last four teams in, had a Ratings Percentage Index of 66, three spots higher than Temple’s.
After the Owls beat South Florida, then-ranked No. 19 in the AP Top 25 Poll, 68-66 on Feb. 6 for their first win over a ranked opponent since February 2009, the team started receiving attention for an at-large bid to the tournament. But the team finished 5-4 over its final nine games.
The week before Selection Monday, Brigham Young University and Princeton University—two mid-major programs—failed to win their conference tournaments but received at-large bids, potentially knocking Temple out of contention for the field of 64.
“We knew that in order to give ourselves a really good shot that we would have to beat South Florida and play in the [The American] championship game,” Cardoza said. “The last thing you want is to hope someone loses. You just want to control your own destiny.”
Temple, along with Memphis and Tulane, will represent The American in the WNIT field.
Senior guard Erica Covile, who has not made the NCAA tournament during her collegiate career, looked back to the three-week stretch in the nonconference season, where Temple lost four of its five games from Nov. 22 to Dec. 6, as a missed opportunity.
“Earlier in the season, we had some games that we let slip away,” Covile said. “If we would have won those games, there would be no doubt about us making the tournament.”
This season, Temple’s resume included a 2-6 record against opponents inside the RPI Top 50 and a 1-5 record against ranked opponents.
Now, Temple will attempt another run in the WNIT to follow up last year’s semifinal appearance.
The team opens up WNIT play on Friday on the road at Drexel.
“They’re all feeling some sort of way, but they know there’s still basketball to be played,” Cardoza said. “There is another opportunity to go out there, so we should have pride in that.”
Connor Northrup and Mark McCormick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TheTempleNews.