Women’s basketball shows promise after great season

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

With their loss to the University of Wyoming Cowgirls, the SDSU women’s basketball team finished a historic season.

The Jacks’ final record was 25-6, including a 14-1 record at home. The 25 wins mark the most the team has won since the move to Division I. This year was the sixth year in a row the Jacks only lost one game at home, and the second year in a row SDSU went undefeated against other independent teams.

All six losses on the season were against teams that made the postseason; either the Women’s National Invitation Tournament or the Women’s NCAA tournament. The Jackrabbits went 6-3 against BCS teams, which are teams from the six power conferences (Big Ten, Big Twelve, Big East, ACC, SEC and Pac Ten). Before the Jacks lost their final game, they owned the longest winning streak in women’s D-I basketball. USA Today named SDSU the best team not to make it to the NCAA tournament.

With all their success this season, the Jacks accomplished many firsts in school history. The team secured its first win versus a ranked opponent and hosted its first Big Ten school since the move to D-I.

The Jacks became the first transition team in the nation to play in the WNIT. The team recorded their highest average attendance ever, and recorded the largest single-game attendance at a women’s game. For the first time in school history, the women averaged higher per-game attendance than the men.

But the team’s true success lies beyond the numbers and statistical accomplishments.

“What this year has meant to the university is almost beyond words,” Senior Women’s Administrator Nancy Neiber said.

Head Coach Aaron Johnston said this season “took things to a new level”- the next level being one of the top programs in the nation.

SDSU received votes in the top 25 poll for the first time in school history and finished the season in the top 50 RPI ranking, a formula for ranking the best teams.

Johnston said it is a remarkably difficult achievement for a basketball team not in one of the BCS conferences to be ranked that high in the RPI poll, and said it is amazing how fast SDSU accomplished the feat.

The success of the team this year has built fan interest and “momentum” in recruiting, Johnston said.

“I thought this season’s interest level far outreached the Division-II days,” Johnston said.

He said the team’s success this season generated a larger statewide following than when the team won the Division-II title in 2003.

Neiber said she has never received so many calls from people wanting information about the team. She said people in the western part of the state have never cared more about a team at SDSU than they have about the women’s basketball team this season.

“What this team has done has enlightened the entire state,” Neiber said.

With the success of the women’s team, the culture and expectations of women’s basketball will change.

“Young women and young girls have an opportunity they have never had before,” Neiber said. “There will be a lot more basketballs being dribbled.”

The opportunity to compete at D-I, the highest level of competition, is something new to the state.

“For area basketball players, it raised the level of expectations for college basketball,” Johnston said.

He said girls now think about being D-I players instead of wanting to be D-II players.

#1.883574:2405435638.jpg:sdsuvswyoming2.el.jpg:Freshman forward Ketty Cornemann goes to the hoop during the March 25 game against Wyoming.:Eric Landwehr/University Relations#1.883573:3694392272.jpg:fanswelcoming.jn.jpg:Stacie Oistad and Jennifer Warkenthien are welcomed to Frost Arena by Jackrabbit fans on March 22 before the SDSU vs. Indiana game: