Postseason Purgatory: Utah Reflects On Its Season While Awaiting Potential WNIT Nod


Following a disappointing overtime loss to Cal in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, Utah now awaits the decision of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament to offer the Utes an invitations in what first year head coach Lynne Roberts, calls “postseason purgatory.”

“You kind of just hang out and wonder,” Roberts said. “But our RPI is good. We have a winning record. We should be in the WNIT.”

While the Utes aren’t ready to close the book on their season, it’s hard not to reflect on the year as a whole as fans await the final bookend. Outside the Utah locker room, expectations were dismal. The Utes had just come off a conference-worst 9-21 record, 3-15 in conference, and were projected to finish 11th in the Pac-12 this season. Utah surprised everyone but itself, opening the preseason 8-3, undefeated at home. In the opening weekend of conference play, the Utes defeated both Washington and Washington State in Salt Lake City.

“I do think we’ve made a significant jump in terms of other people’s perspective of how our team was and how they thought we were going to do,” said Utah center Emily Potter. “Obviously you always want to do better.”

First round exit aside, the Utes finished the season 16-14, 8-10 in conference play, and jumped five spots in the Pac-12 standings from last season to this — the largest jump of any Pac-12 team. Utah’s significant jump was due in large part to health. Snce Potter, Katie Kuklok and Paige Crozon returned to the fold after all three missed most, if not all, of last season, it was only natural for this team to improve.

“As soon as I felt healthy, I thought we were going to be great,” Potter said. “The fact that we had everyone back and everyone was healthy, I knew we were going to be able to do some things that we weren’t able to in the previous couple of years.”

But the speed with which the Utes gelled under a new coach’s system and philosophy is what caught fans and experts alike off guard. It’s also what the Utes believed no one outside of the locker room could quite understand.

“If we’re first place in the Pac-12 or last place, I would still choose my teammates 100 times over,” Potter said. “I feel like a lot of people say that, but I really do believe in the group of people we have here and what we’re working towards.”

The WNIT is a 64-team bracket, made up of 32 automatic berths, determined by teams that win their conferences and 32 at-large selections. A winning record is all it takes to be eligible for consideration, and the Utes’ play should earn them a spot in the bracket. The Utes are desperate for another shot at a happy ending to their season.

But for now, Utah is caught in a period of waiting, remaining focused on a possible at-large berth to the tournament. Although Potter is excited for what the future holds in this Utah program, she’s keeping up her hopes that this current season hasn’t come to an end.

“Right now the season isn’t over, so there’s no time like the present,” Potter said. “We just have to keep playing for as long as we possibly can.”

The Utes won’t have much longer to wait. The WNIT releases the official bracket March 14 as Potter and the Utes anxiously wait to see if they’ll get at least one more game together.

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