Gophers women's basketball gets first-round WNIT bye

The Gophers women's basketball team was given a first-round bye by the WNIT tournament and will face the winner of Thursday's Cal Poly-Pacific game in the second round.

The site of that game has yet to be named. Second-round games will be played from Saturday through Tuesday.

It will be an intriguing return to the court for the Gophers (16-15), who played down the stretch of the regular season and Big Ten tournament without two injured starters: leading scorer Mara Braun (right foot) and center Sophie Hart (left hip). In a local radio interview Monday, coach Dawn Plitzuweit said it was "the plan" to have both available for the upcoming game.

Though they received a bye, there is no guarantee the Gophers would play at home in the second round. Williams Arena will be used for the state high school tournament through Saturday, so if the game were scheduled after that the Gophers could conceivably host.

Pacific finished 18-14 overall and 8-8 in the West Coast Conference, which sent two teams — 16th-ranked Gonzaga and Portland — to the NCAA tournament. Pacific was 1-4 vs. those two teams, losing to Gonzaga three times. But, in a sign of improvement, the games were closer each time. The Tigers lost by 65 on Feb. 3, by 13 two weeks later and by 11 in the WCC tournament.

Cal Poly was 17-13 overall and 13-7 in the Big West. One common opponent between the Mustangs and Gophers was Cal State Northridge, a team the Gophers beat by 53 points in November. Cal Poly won both its meetings with Cal State Northridge, by 25 and seven.

Minnesota is 2-0 all-time vs. Cal Poly, most recently winning in December 2017. The Gophers have never faced Pacific.