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Originally published March 16, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Page modified March 17, 2010 at 1:21 AM

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WBI adds another 16 tournament teams to NCAA and NIT's 144 | UW women's basketball

Seattle U. coach Joan Bonvacini had a hand in creating a third postseason tournament for women.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Portland @ Washington, 6 p.m.

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs

Some will snub their nose.

USC did.

Gathered in a room to watch the NCAA tournament selection show on Monday, when the Women of Troy didn't see their name in the field of 64, administrators and coach Michael Cooper shunned any other postseason option. But for other teams, secondary tournaments such as the inaugural 16-team Women's Basketball Invitational are the next-best thing to the "real" dance.

"There is that attitude," said WBI executive director Emily Bauer of coaches who have the NCAA tournament or bust motto. "But not all. For some, getting a call was just like watching the NCAA show. We were lucky. Everybody we contacted wanted to be in the tournament and is fired up."

Including Washington and its sub-.500 record. Seeded third in the West region, the Huskies (12-17) host Portland (18-12) at Edmundson Pavilion on Wednesday and have a good chance to win the single-elimination WBI championship.

But what is the WBI?

In short, the creation of Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini. After she was fired at Arizona in 2008, one of Bonvicini's jobs before being hired at SU was women's basketball representative for Sport Tours. The company, established in 1972, organizes tournaments in places like Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Mexico along with facilitating global trips for teams.

"Real rough life, right?" Bonvicini joked recently. "I saw there were all of these tournaments for men and thought why not for the women?"

Adding to the equality factor is challenging the system of the second-tier tournament — the 64-team Women's NIT — in which schools bid for home games instead of being seeded based on record and RPI ranking. A WBI committee of five former coaches seed the teams based on merit, charging the home team $10,000 to host and paying the visitor $7,000 to travel.

The rest — ticket pricing, television and radio access, parking, etc. — is left to the host school to decide, and any profits are theirs. Based on the sliding scale that increases per round, Sports Tours will make about $42,000 off holding the tournament.

"People can say things get watered down, but I don't really buy that," said Bauer of there now being 144 teams advancing to postseason play. "I don't think anyone would say just having a top layer of teams always on top is great for the game. It's good that the dynamic is changing a little bit."

Washington and Louisville (14-17), also a three seed, are the only teams from BCS conferences in the WBI. Memphis (17-13), which completed its first winning season since 2004, is the overall No. 1 seed in the West Regional. Appalachian State (19-12) is the No. 1 seed in the East Regional.

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