Middle Tennessee will participate in the women's basketball postseason for the 12th consecutive year under Head Coach Rick Insell, and 14th straight overall, after earning an invitation to play in the 2017 WNIT late Monday night.
The Lady Raiders (21-10) will face Morehead State (21-9) in a first-round game at Murphy Center Thursday at 8:30 PM. Morehead State is an automatic qualifier out of the Ohio Valley Conference. The teams were longtime foes in the OVC, with Middle Tennessee holding a 43-7 advantage, but they have not met since 2000.
The winner will face the winner of Wake Forest and Bethune-Cookman in the second round.
Middle Tennessee, which is making its fifth appearance in the WNIT postseason tournament, is one of three C-USA teams to make the 64-team field. Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech also received berths. It marks the 14th consecutive postseason trip for Middle Tennessee with 12 NCAA Tournaments and two WNITs during that stretch.
"It is not the NCAA Tournament but it is the next-best thing," Insell said. "We are very fortunate to still be playing in the postseason. This team earned the right to continue playing based on finishing as the No. 2 seed in Conference USA and playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country."
Insell said a WNIT postseason run in 2015 played a role in a championship campaign in the subsequent season.
"We faced this same situation two years ago and it proved to be a positive," Insell said. "We played four postseason games and carried that momentum into a conference championship the following season. With the exception of Ty Petty, all of our players are back, so this extra practice and extra games can only help. We appreciate the opportunity to extend our season and represent Conference USA in the WNIT."
Middle Tennessee is making its fifth appearance in the WNIT. The Lady Raiders previously played in the event in 1999, 2001, 2008 and 2015. They are $10 for general admission and $5 for students. Postseason games are not included in season-ticket packages.