The Creighton women’s basketball team heads to South Dakota for its eighth consecutive postseason appearance and second consecutive in the WNIT.
The Bluejays play against the South Dakota Coyotes at the DakotaDome on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Big East First Team selection Marissa Janning and the Big East’s Most Improved Player, senior forward Alexis Akin-Otiko, led Creighton to a 17-13 return through the Big East tournament.
“If we’re going to make a run, we’ll need those guys to be productive and engaged,” Flanery said.
Creighton fell to 9-10 after a 25-point loss to eventual Big East tournament champion DePaul, but the Bluejays won eight of their final 10 regular season games to build their resume for an at-large postseason bid.
Creighton missed its opportunity at an automatic NCAA bid, falling by three points in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals against St. John’s and was forced to wait until Selection Monday to find out its postseason fate.
The Jays missed the field of 64 for the NCAA tournament, but the WNIT committee selected the Jays for a first-round matchup against South Dakota.
South Dakota (25-7) features two First Team All-Summit League selections. Senior guards Nicole Seekamp and Raeshel Contreras earned First Team honors; each average more than 15 points per game. Seekamp also earned the Summit League Tournament most valuable player award despite the Coyotes’ loss in the championship game against South Dakota State.
“Hopefully we’ve played against enough good guards in the Big East that will set us up to have an idea of what we are looking at,” Flanery said.
South Dakota earned an automatic bid into the WNIT after winning the Summit League regular-season title.
Last season the Jays defeated South Dakota 63-48 on Nov. 26 at D.J. Sokol Arena. Janning had a game-high 20 points and Creighton led by as many as 24.
Seekamp led South Dakota with 17 points and the Coyotes finished with a 39-35 rebounding advantage.
“They are a physical team,” Flanery said. “We’ve had a hard time rebounding against them.”
Flanery noted that the game against the Coyotes may be decided by the turnover margin because of the amount of time between the Jays’ last game and the first-round matchup.
The Jays Big East tournament run was cut short in the quarterfinals on March 8. Creighton had the week off from practice following the tournament and did not return to the hardwood until Saturday.
“The time off helped, and I don’t feel that our players have cashed it in and are ready for the season to get over,” Flanery said. “That’s a good thing.”
Flanery feels that his team is excited for the opportunity to make a deep run in the WNIT.
“What makes the tournament fun is that there isn’t a lot of separation between the best teams in the tournament and the worst teams,” Flanery said.
While the WNIT is not as highly regarded as the NCAA tournament, Creighton is prepared for its next task.
“These games are meaningful, but maybe at some level you exhale and relax and play and don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” Flanery said. “It comes down to if you’re willing to have the right attitude about it and if you’re enthusiastic about that opportunity.”
The winner of Thursday’s contest will face the winner of the Colorado State and Northern Colorado matchup.
Last season the Jays ended their season in South Dakota with a loss to South Dakota State in the second round of the WNIT.
The Jays picked up a 77-51 victory over Missouri in the first round before facing the Jackrabbits.