The BYU women’s basketball team is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 after its Monday afternoon 78-66 win over Gonzaga that crowned the Cougars the West Coast Conference champions.
The BYU women’s team has seen its share of struggles in attempts to claim a spot in the big dance over the past decade, even with teams that have impressive records.
The last appearance the Cougars made in the NCAA Tournament was the first round in 2007, when they were blown out by Louisville 80-54, ending their tournament hopes. After that year, the Cougars had a losing season in 2008, but bounced right back to record winning seasons each of the next four years, improving their record with each passing season.
Last season, the Cougars finished 23-7 and 15-1 in their last year in the Mountain West Conference, winning the regular-season conference championship. However, BYU was knocked out of the semifinals of the conference tournament by rival Utah on a winning shot at the buzzer.
Despite their impressive record, the Cougars were not invited to the NCAA Tournament, and instead made it to the third round of the Women’s NIT before losing to eventual runner-up USC. The “snub” on the invitation, despite their record, has caused head coach Jeff Judkins to lobby for more than one invite per conference.
With the 78-66 win over Gonzaga, the Cougars have won their first tournament championship since 2002, the year they advanced to the school’s only Sweet 16 appearance. It was also the inaugural year for BYU in the West Coast Conference, stopping the recent domination of Gonzaga, which had won three straight tournament titles, and four of the last five.
This year, the Cougars don’t have to worry about the NCAA selection committee, as the Cougars have punched their own ticket to the tournament.