Fresno State is headed to the postseason for an eighth straight season.
The Bulldogs (22-9) were selected to host San Francisco in the first round of the 64-team Women’s National Invitation Tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday at Save Mart Center. The winner advances to a second-round game against the winner between Saint Mary’s and Hawaii between March 21 and 24.
The Dons (19-13) finished as the West Coast Conference Tournament runner-up to Brigham Young after finishing sixth during the regular season at 8-10.
“It’s exciting to keep playing,” Bulldogs senior guard Alex Furr said Monday. “Not a lot of teams get to do that, so we’re privileged.”
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While the program’s streak of seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances was snapped, the WNIT presents a new goal for this group of Bulldogs — to finally get a win in the postseason after first-round losses in every NCAA appearance.
Coach Jaime White preached that message to her players at the end of practice Monday.
“We have to challenge our players with that,” White said. “We need to get back on a track of playing and playing good. We should be playing the best basketball that we can right now. We’re excited for the challenge.”
Senior Alex Furr said the team’s postseason goal isn’t to win just one game.
“With the WNIT, we’re trying to go in and win as much as we can,” she said.
“We’re excited to continue to play and go more than one and done in postseason,” she added. “That’s what’s keeping us together and excited in the process.”
With a winning streak, the Bulldogs could see some familiar faces later in the tournament.
The second round could present a rematch against Saint Mary’s, whom the Bulldogs beat 60-54 on Dec. 12 to start a 13-game winning streak during the middle of the season.
If the Bulldogs reach the third round, they could play a Pacific team featuring former Bulldogs Madison Parrish and Blakely Goldberg. Parrish, who left Fresno State after former coach Adrian Wiggins’ departure, is a senior guard for the Tigers and Goldberg is the team’s assistant coordinator of operations.
Other possible matchups include quarterfinal meetings against either Mountain West Conference rival Colorado State or Cal State Bakersfield, which handed the Bulldogs their worst loss of the season, 80-60 on Nov. 30 in Bakersfield. (Interestingly, the Rams host Northern Colorado, where White coached before coming to Fresno State, in their first-round matchup).
And if Fresno State makes it to the semifinals, it could face former coach Raegan Pebley and her squad from Texas Christian.
“It definitely adds to the excitement,” Furr said. “I think it’d be fun to play Pacific with both Madi and Blakely being there. And TCU, I would definitely love to see them more than anybody.”
It’s the Bulldogs first selection to the WNIT since 2006 and also the sixth in program history. Fresno State is 6-7 all-time in WNIT games.