Missouri women's basketball team excited to be eligible for postseason

Saturday, March 2, 2013 | 8:22 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Sixteen wasn't a number Robin Pingeton focused on.

She knew what that number meant to her team and its hopes of reaching postseason play for the first time since 2007. But the Missouri women's basketball coach tried to keep her team from thinking about it.

Still she knew there was only so much she could do to keep it off her players' minds. 

"There's no doubt in my mind, it's back there," Pingeton said last Wednesday, pointing to her head. "How is it not? As a student-athlete, a chance to do something that hasn't been done in a while."

On Feb. 3, Pingeton's team defeated No. 9 Tennessee, bringing its win total to 15.

Missouri's next win would guarantee a .500 record, making the team eligible for postseason play. But the Tigers dropped their next five games before finally getting their 16th win by upsetting No. 14 South Carolina on Thursday.

Although the NCAA tournament is out of reach, Missouri is likely to get a berth in the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

The women's version of the NIT includes 64 teams, and the games are played on the team's home courts.

According to the WNIT website, the quality of a team's venue is not taken into account during the selection process, but once teams are chosen, it might be used to decide which schools will host.

Because Missouri has a larger and more modern venue than many of the teams that are likely to be in the field, the Tigers could be looking at an extra home game when the tournament rolls around.

First, though, the Tigers will wrap up their Southeastern Conference schedule with a game Sunday at Alabama followed by the SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga.

Missouri won't find out its postseason fate until March 18, when the brackets for both the NCAA women's tournament and WNIT are announced.

With the mental roadblock of reaching 16 wins out of the way, the Tigers can look for additional wins to improve their standing in the postseason.

After Thursday's win, Pingeton refused to dwell on the fact that she had reached her stated goal of reaching the postseason in her third year of rebuilding the Missouri program.

"It's nice, no doubt about it, but we haven't talked a lot about win No. 16," Pingeton said. "Obviously, there are opportunities it opens up, but I can assure you the furthest thing from my mind tonight is postseason."

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