TUCSON, Ariz.- The 16-team field for the 2004 Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) was announced today, pairing Arizona against Saint Mary’s (Calif.) in first-round action. It will be the second-ever meeting between the two teams. The Wildcats won the first match-up 75-63 on Dec. 5, 1993.
Arizona, which went 14-0 at home last year and currently boasts the third-longest home winning streak in the nation, opens the 2004-05 season vs. the Gaels on Friday, Nov. 12, at the McKale Center, where it is currently riding a 27-game winning streak.
The winner will advance to meet either Rice or McNeese State on Sunday, Nov. 14. All WNIT contests will be held at home sites, which are determined following each round. The championship game is slated for Saturday or Sunday, Nov. 20 or 21.
The prestigious tournament, now in its 11th year, features five teams that played in last year’s NCAA Tournament -- Arizona, Duke, Middle Tennessee State, Notre Dame and Ohio State -- and four teams that played in the WNIT -- Nebraska, Rice, Saint Joseph’s and South Florida.
A team may participate in the WNIT no more than once in a four-year period. Additionally, only one institution per conference may play in the tournament in the same year.
The 2003-04 Wildcats went 24-9 overall and 14-4 in the Pacific-10 , tied for the program’s best-ever conference record. Arizona tied Stanford for the regular-season title, earning the program’s first-ever conference championship, and made its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The team tied or broke 36 school records, including best home record, most field goals made in a season (919) and most individual rebounds in a season (Shawntinice Polk, 339).
Arizona returns four of its starters from last year’s squad, including Polk, who was a 2003-04 Associated Press and Kodak/WBCA honorable mention All-American. Also returning is point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler, who was named to the All-Pac-10 Team, and sophomore Shannon Hobson, who was a Pac-10 honorable mention All-Freshman Team choice.
Saint Mary’s went 15-14 last season with a 7-7 mark in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels’ had two players named to the WCC All-Freshman Team and two players named All-WCC Honorable Mention.
This is Arizona’s second appearance in the preseason WNIT. In 1996, the Wildcats defeated San Francisco 85-79 in overtime in the first round, before falling 73-60 to Louisiana Tech, the eventual tournament champion.
In last year’s Preseason WNIT, Texas Tech captured the title with a 73-45 victory over Rutgers. The home team won each of the tournament’s 15 games.
More detailed Preseason WNIT information, including tournament records and results, can be found online at www.womensnit.com.