The Gophers likely played themselves out of their chance to earn an at-large berth in the NCAA women's basketball tournament by losing to No. 12 seed Northwestern on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament.

But even if they are left out of the field as expected, that won't mean their season is over.

The Gophers could be invited to the Women's National Invitation Tournament, which picks its field after the 64 spots in the NCAA tournament are filled. And because all of the games are played at home sites, it would be likely that Minnesota fans would have at least one more chance to see record-setting Gophers guard Rachel Banham.

Banham, named Big Ten player of the year, averaged 27.6 points per game as the Gophers compiled a 19-11 record. She is projected to be among the first players taken in April's WNBA draft.

Gophers senior associate athletic director Chris Werle said in an e-mail: "It is safe to say we would accept a WNIT bid. Student-athletes earned it, so we should give them the opportunity to compete."

Werle said he couldn't foresee any schedule conflicts that would keep Williams Arena from being available to host in the tournament. The field will be selected March 14, with first-round games to be played March 16-18.

Minnesota earned an NCAA bid last season but lost 79-72 in the first round to DePaul.