When Will UL Women’s Basketball Go To The NCAA Tourney?
When will the Louisiana Ragin' Cajun women's basketball team head to the NCAA Tournament?
My prediction is the 2019-2020 season, and I think I have pretty sound reasoning.
First, the next time the UL women head to the NCAA Tournament, it will be a big deal.
The program has appeared in the NCAA Tournament only once before (2007), and has been through its share of lean years.
Since Garry Brodhead became head coach prior to the 2012-2013 campaign however, Louisiana has gone on to unprecedented success.
Brodhead has guided the Cajuns to a 109-85 record over that timespan, the most wins by a coach in program history.
Last season, UL wrapped-up their fourth-consecutive winning season, a first in program history, after back-to-back Women's Basketball Invitational titles in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, and a spot in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game in the 2016-2017 season.
Over the last six seasons, we've seen some of the best players in program history come through, including Keke Veal, Kia Wilridge, Jaylyn Gordon, and Simone Fields, who are all in the top ten in career scoring.
If you've been paying attention, you know understand how much better the program has become.
But what about taking that next step?
When is the program going to bust through and qualify for the NCAA Tournament?
Again, as I said earlier; my guess is the 2019-2020 season.
Now, don't get me wrong; I think Louisiana will be good next season. I believe they'll have another.
The Cajuns had a winning record last season, despite being besieged by injuries, and return the likes of Skylar Goodwin, Jasmine Thomas, Malachi-Seraphin Williams Kimberly Burton, and Brittney Miles, who all started double-digit games last season, as well as Ty'Reonne Doucet, Danyale Bayonne, and Jomyra Mathis, who were all impressive as freshmen.
UL also adds an impressive recruiting class, which includes four prep signees, to go along with two junior college transfers.
I think Louisiana will be good next year, and will be fun to watch, but I can't go on the record and say they will win the conference, even though they certainly will be capable of doing so.
The reason is simple; seniors, or lack thereof.
That's right, the Cajuns won't have any next year.
Sure, UL will have some experienced players next year, but I can't pick them to win the league, without any seniors on the team.
Not having any seniors next season may bode well for the year after, however.
Looking ahead toward the 2019-2020 season, you can't help but get a little excited just thinking about it.
They'll have an impressive crop of seniors, including Thomas, Burton, Williams, and Miles, who all would have been with the program for four years, as well Carolina Rivera and Kendell Bess, JC transfers who would be in their second years with the program.
There will also be a group of experience juniors, such as Goodwin, Doucet, and Mathis, who Bayonne, who have all contributed, and who would all be in their third years with the Cajuns.
I look ahead toward 2019-2020, and I count ten upperclassmen, who can all play.
10 upperclassmen?!?!?...8 of who have contributed for at least three years?!?!?
That experience factor could be the X factor.
Also in the 2019-2020 season, a quartet of talented young players, Andrea Cournoyer, Brandi Williams, Diamond Morrison, and Jazmyn Womack, who will be freshmen next year, will have a year under their belts.
And I'm not even factoring in any players coach Brodhead might add, whether it be as a recruit or a transfer, over the next 16-18 months.
Now, things can change, and they normally do, and in a one-bid league, one tournament loss can put an end to any high hopes.
I still say the 2015-2016 Louisiana team was set-up to go to the NCAA Tournament, and would have, had they not had to deal with a suspension to a key player.
So, there obviously no guarantees.
That being said, the projected 2019-2020 team will have ball-handling, shooting, scoring, defense, toughness, length, rebounding, defense, versatility, depth, and experience; all the ingredients necessary to make the NCAA Tournament.
For years I've been saying that UL women's basketball is like bad weather, it's coming.
Well, based on what I see, the storm is getting pretty close.