Cougar women on Big Dance bubble?

ON PAPER, the injury to Shalie Dheensaw and a recent five-game losing streak appeared to have scuttled the Cougar women’s basketball team’s chances for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. But according to ESPN, Washington State is squarely on the Big Dance bubble headed into tonight’s penultimate regular season game vs. UCLA.

Washington State is listed among the “first four out” on ESPN’s women’s bracketology by Charlie Creme. The other three are Michigan, Middle Tennessee State and Pacific.

The "last four in" the 64-team projection are LSU, Iowa State, Tulane and West Virginia.

The conventional wisdom for Washington State (15-12, 6-10 Pac-12) to leapfrog those ahead and receive an at-large bid would seem to be a tall order: a sweep at home of the L.A. schools followed by two wins in the Pac-12 tournament.

UCLA and USC are one game ahead of the Cougs in the Pac-12 standings. The Bruins are 11-16 on the year but are 7-9 in Pac-12 play. USC is 15-12 and also 7-9 in conference play. A sweep would move give Washington State at least a tie for sixth place in the Pac-12.

Five Pac-12 teams are projected in the tournament bracket by ESPN: Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford, Cal and Washington.

The Cougs host UCLA at 7 p.m. on Thursday before a Saturday afternoon matchup vs. USC at 3 p.m. There is no TV for the UCLA game, the WSU-USC game will be carried by the Pac-12 Networks.

The last time the WSU women's basketball team played in the NCAA tournament was 1991. Last season's NIT bid was the program’s first postseason tournament appearance since the '91 season.

The Pac-12 tournament begins March 5 in Seattle.

Junior Lia Galdeira (pictured above) leads the Pac-12 in steals with 90 and is second in the conference in scoring at 19.6 ppg. Fellow guard Tia Presley is fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring (16.4 ppg) and steals (52). Freshman forward Louise Brown, who has stepped in as a starter for the injured Dheensaw, is second on the team in blocks (26) and rebounding (6.4 rpg).

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