Cal State Bakersfield likes these postseason opportunities.
The Roadrunners have their most prestigious postseason game in their Division I history today at 6 p.m. when they travel to St. Mary's in Moraga, near Oakland, for a first-round game in the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
"This is something new for our program," CSUB coach Greg McCall said after the Roadrunners lost to Seattle in last Saturday's Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals. "It's another history-making moment. This is the second-best tournament there is. You've got the NCAA and the WNIT. It's an honor for us to go there."
CSUB (19-11) qualified for the WNIT as the outright second-place finisher in the WAC regular season. That gave Bakersfield the WAC's automatic berth into the WNIT. St. Mary's (22-9) is from the West Coast Conference.
WAC regular-season champion Idaho earned the league's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament.
Since it's inaugural D-I schedule in the 2007-08 season, Bakersfield has competed in two Women's Basketball Invitational tournaments, going 4-2. The Roadrunners' best success came in March, 2011, when they won their first three WBI games before losing at Ala.-Birmingham.
But the WBI's only requirement was a winning record and was not organized or operated by the NCAA.
"We wanted to be in the big one but we fell a little short," McCall said Tuesday on the Roadrunner Rundown webcast. "That was one of our main goals."
But another goal was to reach the postseason, McCall said. "We're very excited for the girls."
A familar face will be on the St. Mary's sideline. Head coach Paul Thomas has faced CSUB 15 times in his coaching career, but only one at St. Mary's.
Thomas had 14 of those games when he was the coach of D-2 power Cal Poly Pomona. CSUB holds a 9-6 all-time lead against Thomas-coached teams but the Roadrunners are 0-2 in postseason play vs. Thomas.
Both teams are led by high-powered scorers.
CSUB junior guard Tyonna Outland averages 20.8 points per game, which ranked No. 2 in the WAC this season,
Melissa Sweat (14.5) is the only other Roadrunners with a double-figure scoring average.
St. Mary's Jackie Nared, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, leads the Gaels with a 21.8 average. Danielle Mauldin (17.5), Kate Gaze (12.7) and Shannon Mauldin (12.4) also have double-figure scoring averages.