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WSU Men's Basketball

Washington State women excited for NCAA Tournament reveal after playing themselves into automatic bid

Washington State forward Bella Murekatete runs down the court after time expired in their 65-61 victory over the UCLA Bruins to win the championship game of the Pac-12 Conference women's basketball tournament at Michelob ULTRA Arena on March 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Getty Images)
By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

The game is about having fun, Washington State coach Kamie Ethridge reminded reporters Friday afternoon.

During a virtual news conference, Ethridge recalled how the Cougars celebrated so long after upsetting Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament that they had to be told to leave the floor.

Ethridge also recalled a newspaper headline that posed the rhetorical question: “Is anyone having more fun than the Cougars?”

Probably not, considering WSU just won its first conference tournament title .

More fun lies ahead at Sunday’s NCAA Tournament bracket reveal, which begins at 5 p.m.

Considered a bubble team just two weeks ago, the Cougars (23-10) not only earned the Pac-12’s automatic bid, they soared up the charts.

Ranked 22nd in Monday’s Associated Press poll, they’re 30th in the all-important NCAA NET rankings. That translates roughly to a No. 7 or 8 seed, but most experts predict the Cougars will move higher based on recent performance.

As of Friday, ESPN bracketologist had the Cougars as a No. 6 seed, playing in Durham, North Carolina, against the winner of a play-in game between Marquette and Kansas.

CollegeSportsMadness is more optimistic, giving WSU a No. 5 seed and pitting them against UNLV in the first round. The site: Austin, Texas, where Ethridge was an All-American at the University of Texas and where the Cougars lost a first-round game two years ago to South Florida.

At a No. 5 or 6 seed, it’s likely the Cougars will travel far to play at the home of a No. 3 or 4 seed. Choices are limited because few likely hosts are on the West Coast.

UCLA is projected as a No. 4 seed, but the Cougars and Bruins have met three times – most recently on Sunday in the Pac-12 title game – and the NCAA is reluctant to schedule rematches.

Besides Texas, the other projected No. 4 seeds are Villanova and North Carolina, the latter only a short hop from Raleigh, where the Cougars lost to Kansas State in a first-round game last year.

If Crème is right and the Zags are a No. 6 seed, they will certainly travel a great distance; potential No. 3 seeds are Ohio State, Notre Dame, Duke and LSU.

In the meantime, the Cougars are enjoying the ride.

“It’s been an amazing run, a whirlwind,” Ethridge said.

And it’s not over.

“That’s the exciting part, the reveal and what happens on Sunday,” Ethridge said.