Hawai’i-Cal: Information for the Rainbow Wahine inaugural WBIT matchup

Hawai’i-Cal: Information for the Rainbow Wahine inaugural WBIT matchup

Hawai’i-Cal: Information for the Rainbow Wahine inaugural WBIT matchup


HONOLULU – Bears, ‘Bows, the first WBIT. 

The Rainbow Wahine will partake in a postseason tournament for the third straight year after clinching one of the Big West regular season or tournament titles. This year, Hawai’i earned an automatic bid into the first-ever Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament from an outright Big West regular season crown after going 17-3 in conference play. 

Hawai’i found out on Selection Sunday that they would be staying on the west coast for a matchup against the Pac-12’s Cal Golden Bears in the opening round of the WBIT on Thursday, March 21, tipping off in Haas Pavilion at 4:00 p.m. HT. The Rainbow Wahine have been on the road and staying on the mainland since March 5 when they left for the final two road games of the regular season, going directly to Henderson, Nevada for the Big West Championship. In all, it will have been over two weeks since UH has been in Honolulu when they take the floor on Thursday. 

Ahead of Thursday’s 1st round contest, here’s everything you need to know about the matchup, tournament and little tidbits before opening tip-off: 

History of Hawai’i – California on the hardwood 

The Rainbow Wahine and Golden Bears will be facing off for the 11th time ever and first time in nearly a decade on Thursday. The last time Cal and Hawai’i played in women’s basketball was when the 14th-ranked Golden Bears came to O’ahu for the Bank of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine Classic and narrowly escaped with a 79-72 victory back on Nov. 21, 2014, the home opener for UH in Beeman’s third season leading the program. 

Overall, Cal leads Hawai’i in the all-time series, winning six of the ten meetings. UH has only played at the University of California one time before Thursday’s contest, all the way back on Jan. 4, 1978, when Hawai’i fell, 71-40. The first ever meeting between the teams came in January of 1977 and the programs have been infrequent foes since. 

The 2023-24 University of California Golden Bears Women’s Basketball TLDR 

The Bears (18-14, 7-11 Pac-12) were victims of a stacked Pac-12 this year, finishing with Washington State tied for eighth in the conference. The top six finishers in the Pac-12 made the NCAA March Madness tournament as JuJu Watkins and USC received the top seed in the Portland 3 region while Arizona will play in the First Four as an #11 seed against Auburn in that same Portland 3.  

UCLA and Stanford each received #2 seeds on opposite sides of the bracket and Oregon State grabbed a #3 seed in the Albany 1 region, the same quarter of the bracket as Dawn Staley’s South Carolina – the tournament’s top overall seed. 

The only team that finished above the Bears during the regular season from the Pac-12 that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament is Washington, who will also participate in the inaugural WBIT this week.  

The Huskies are one of seven common opponents between the Rainbow Wahine and Cal, joining Big West opponents CSU Bakersfield and Cal Poly, aforementioned Pac-12 powerhouses Stanford and UCLA, the Mountain West’s San Jose State and typical WCC powerhouse Santa Clara. 

Cal went 1-1 in the Pac-12 tournament with a convincing opening round win over Washington State before falling to Stanford in the quarterfinals, the third time losing to the Cardinal this season. 

Who should you know on Cal? 

#32 Ioanna Krimili – Guard, 5-10, Graduate Student 

The Bears’ leading scorer this year, the graduate guard from Greece finished in double-digits 17 times this season with seven games going over 20 points. While she finished the season a little bit rocky (Krimili averaged 7.3 PPG on 18/61 FG in seven games since 2/16), the USF transfer can shoot it with the best of them. She’s the USF program leader in career 3-pointers made with 276 and added another 58 for Cal this year. 

#7 Marta Suárez – Forward, 6-3, Junior 

Another transfer that has been a big-time addition to the Bears, Suárez took a massive jump in production with a bigger opportunity this season. After averaging 4.9 PPG and 3.0 RPG as a redshirt sophomore at Tennessee, the 6-foot-3 forward made the move to the opposite side of the United States and took on a much bigger role. 

Just two years after suffering a season-ending lower body injury, Suárez played and started all 32 games this season for Cal. She’s doubled her totals from a season ago with her jump in playing time, averaging the 2nd-most points per game (11.7) while leading the team on the glass with 6.6 rebounds per contest. 

Leilani McIntosh – Guard, 5-5, Graduate Student 

A pillar of stability for the Cal program, McIntosh has played in 131 of 134 games over the past five seasons (started all 131 games) and sets the table well on both ends for the Golden Bears. The graduate student was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season and has received all-defensive team recognition in her career at Cal. 

It’s not hard to see why either as her defensive prowess has continued into this year. McIntosh leads the team with 53 steals this year, 17 more than the next closest Cal player, while being a production machine on the offensive end. The guard is the Bears’ 3rd-leading scorer while dishing out a team-best 156 assists (4.9 per game) this year. 

Extra information about what exactly is the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament 

Many questions have been asked about what exactly the WBIT is, when it started and how you get to play it. 

Never fear, a pretty simple breakdown is here: 

The WBIT (Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament) is a new NCAA-sanctioned postseason tournament that takes 32 of the top teams in the country not invited to the NCAA Tournament (March Madness) and places them in a bracket against each other. Announced in Fall 2023, the tournament brings the number of NCAA postseason chances for collegiate women’s teams to over 100 without pay-to-play models. 

Teams that win their respective regular season conference titles but lose in their conference tournaments earn automatic bids into the WBIT while the other spots are filled with “at-large” bids that are determined by a committee.  

It is NOT the same tournament as the WNIT, which is not an NCAA-sanctioned postseason tournament and is run by an outside company. Confusion for fans typically comes from the similarity to the men’s National Invitation Tournament (NIT) which IS run by the NCAA. 

The WBIT creation was helped by a 2021 Gender Equity Report recommendation to help provide a similar amount of postseason chances as men’s basketball, continuing the skyrocketing popularity of women’s basketball as the tournament’s opening rounds will air on ESPN+ before the semifinals and championship work their way up to ESPNU and ESPN2 respectively.  

Learn more at the tournament’s official FAQ, here: https://www.ncaa.com/championships/basketball-women/wbit/faqs