KU women left out of NCAA Tournament field; Brandon Schneider’s Jayhawks headed to WNIT
photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World photo
After making the NCAA Tournament field last year for the first time since 2013, the Kansas women’s basketball team missed the cut this year — but the Jayhawks’ season isn’t over yet.
Kansas, which was projected to be in the NCAA Tournament field throughout conference play, will instead be playing in the WNIT, along with Big 12 foes Kansas State and Texas Tech.
The WNIT is scheduled to tip off on Wednesday, and matchups, times and game locations will be announced on Monday. This will be KU’s sixth time playing in the event and its first time since 2011, when the Jayhawks defeated Wichita State in the first round and then lost to Duquesne in the second round.
Last week, the Jayhawks suffered a disappointing loss to TCU, 57-52, in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament. But before that, Brandon Schneider’s squad had won three in a row to end the regular season, including key home wins against Oklahoma State and No. 23 Iowa State. And it dominated the Horned Frogs 84-61 in Fort Worth, Texas, in the last game of the regular season, with four players scoring in double digits.
Kansas has faced some tough competition in the Big 12 this year, including six conference games against ranked opponents. But one of its biggest wins of the season was in the nonconference slate — a dominant 77-50 performance on the road against then-No. 12 Arizona, in which KU held the Wildcats to just 30% shooting.
For much of the season, the Jayhawks have been limited by injuries to key players. Junior forward Ioanna Chatzileonti has missed 13 games and hasn’t played since Jan. 14 against Oklahoma; last season, she averaged about 10 points and played in every game on the schedule. Senior guard Holly Kersgieter also missed three games this season, two of them after suffering an injury against Oklahoma on Feb. 19. Kansas went 1-1 in those two games, losing 63-45 to Kansas State and then beating Oklahoma State 66-57.
With Chatzileonti out of the lineup, Kansas has had to rely on senior center Taiyanna Jackson to anchor the frontcourt. But that’s been no problem for Jackson, who has had 18 double-doubles in 29 games played this season — the ninth-best mark in the country. She’s averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game and is also KU’s second-leading scorer. And she has been named a Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist and a candidate for the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award.
Jackson and senior guard Zakiyah Franklin, the Jayhawks’ leading scorer, were both named to the All-Big 12 First Team this season — the first time Kansas has ever had multiple players on the All-Big 12 First Team. Kersgieter earned an honorable mention, and Jackson was also selected to the All-Big 12 Defensive team.
All told, Kansas finished this season 19-11 overall and 9-9 in conference play and took seventh in the Big 12 race.
Last season, when the Jayhawks ended their tourney drought, they had a 21-10 overall record and were 11-7 in-conference play. They were a No. 8 seed in the Big Dance and knocked off No. 9 seed Georgia Tech, 77-58, in the first round before losing 91-65 to top-seeded Stanford in the second round.