The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Women’s hoops looking strong

    Last year, the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team finished the season in a very unusual position — the middle of the pack in the WIAC.

    The Blugolds’ fourth-place finish marked the first time since 1991 that they didn’t finish first or second in the conference.

    This year, the Blugolds accomplished something even more unusual — they became only the fifth team in WIAC history to finish the conference season undefeated.

    Not only did the Blugolds finish unbeaten in the WIAC, but also they have not lost to a Div. III opponent this year. Eau Claire’s only loss this season came on the road against South Dakota State, which is the No. 2 ranked Div. II team in the country.

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    As a reward for this incredible season, the Blugolds could get the chance to stay on their home-court all of the way until the Final Four.

    The NCAA Div. III tournament is set up so that all of the games are at on-campus sites until the Final Four, which will be held March 15-16 in Terre Haute, Ind. The Blugolds are in good position to be at home for at least two, if not more, tournament games if they win the WIAC tournament.

    Eau Claire won’t have to win the WIAC tournament to get invited to the national tournament. Their No. 4 national ranking guarantees they’ll get in, regardless. If the Blugolds want more than one home game in the NCAA tourney, however, they’ll have to win the conference tournament.

    Assuming this happens, Eau Claire still isn’t assured home court through Terre Haute. The Blugolds currently are seeded No. 1 in the Central Region by the NCAA, which would give them a big advantage in the selection process. Regional seeding, however, is only one of four criteria considered when determining which team gets a home game.

    If the road to the Final Four runs through Zorn Arena, Eau Claire will have a huge advantage. The ‘Golds clearly don’t need home-court advantage to advance deep into the NCAA tourney, but it certainly would help.

    Whether the Blugolds are at home or on the road, they will have to get past Washington University of St. Louis.

    As usual, the Bears are the No. 1 team in the country, and the four-time national champions usually end up in Eau Claire’s path to the NCAA’s.

    For some reason, Washington is ranked behind Eau Claire in the regional polls, despite being ahead in the national rankings. This might give Eau Claire a shot at the Bears in Zorn Arena, if the Blugolds don’t lose prior to that.

    Eau Claire pulled off its second undefeated conference season in four years with basically the same players as last year — six of the Blugolds’ seven leading scorers from last year came back for this campaign.

    The players have played most of the last two seasons together, giving them a continuity many teams don’t have.

    Due to this, the Blugolds have a great chance at repeating UW-Stevens Point’s feat of a year ago and upsetting Washington. The Pointers used that victory to spring a run to the school’s second national championship.

    The older players on the Blugolds have seen Washington before, so they’re not likely to be intimidated by the Bears.

    It’s only one game out of nine the Blugolds could play the rest of the season, but it is by far the most important.

    If Stevens Point can beat Washington in St. Louis, Eau Claire certainly can, too. And if the Blugolds can do that, they can beat anybody.

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