GRAND FORKS — The first season in the Big Sky Conference wasn’t easy for the University of North Dakota women’s basketball program. North Dakota won only six league games during the 2012-13 season and missed the league’s postseason tournament as well.
It was Travis Brewster’s first season as the UND coach as well.
Under Brewster, however, it didn’t take long for North Dakota to adjust.
UND stormed to the Big Sky Conference regular-season and postseason titles this season, earning a berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament as well. It was quite the turnaround as UND became the school’s first non-hockey program to advance to NCAA postseason play in the athletic program’s Division I era.
As a result, Brewster was named the Big Sky Conference coach of the year Tuesday in a vote of league coaches.
UND was picked eighth and ninth in preseason Big Sky polls. Brewster, however, didn’t buy those projections.
“Our players worked hard this summer; they worked hard in the fall and this (NCAA tournament) was their focus all year long,” said Brewster. “They defied some odds, believed in themselves and stuck together. That was the key.”
Brewster led UND to a 22-9 overall record and a 15-5 mark in the Big Sky. UND won a share of the regular-season title and held the tie-breaker to host the league tournament.
Last week at The Betty, UND played its best basketball of the season in rolling past Idaho State and Montana to win the league’s postseason title and the Big Sky’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a humbling honor to have your peers vote for you in such a distinguished league of coaches,” said Brewster. “I value the Big Sky Conference and all the hard work it does to promote women’s basketball. This is a team award; it’s a true blessing to have the people around me successful together, the team and my staff.”
UND, a No. 14 seed, will meet No. 3 seed Texas A&M on Sunday in a first-round NCAA tournament game in College Station, Texas, home of the Aggies.
The other game Sunday in College Station pits No. 6 seed Gonzaga against No. 11 James Madison. The winner of the four-team sub-regional moves on to the Sweet 16 in Lincoln, Neb.