For the first time since Dec. 23, 2002, the Michigan women’s basketball team is ranked by the Associated Press women’s basketball poll. The Wolverines (3-0 Big Ten, 14-2 overall) enter the poll at No. 25 after a 54-43 victory over Wisconsin on Sunday.
“I think it (is) great for people around the country to see Michigan women’s basketball in the Top 25 because of the way that our kids have worked and because I think they’re deserving of it,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “I think anytime you get that recognition, it’s great for your program, and great for your university and it brings exposure to your program and your university.”
While Barnes Arico found the media attention surrounding the ranking to be funny, she nonetheless believes her team which boasts the 19th-best RPI is deserving of a top-25 ranking considering its quality wins over Florida, and Iowa.
Under the direction of its first-year head coach, Michigan is currently riding a nine-game winning streak, the second longest in program history after a 10-game streak in the 2001-02 season.
Though Barnes Arico considers the streak an outstanding achievement, she likes to think about the team’s preparation and process of gaining success rather than the success itself.
“I don’t want us to forget how we got here and what we’re trying to do,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s why we don’t talk about (our ranking) at all as a staff, as a program, in the locker room. We just talk about our next opponent.”
Taking a team that has failed to achieve a Top-25 ranking for a long duration of time and, getting them into the poll is nothing new for Barnes Arico. During her tenure at St. Johns, Barnes Arico led the Red Storm to their first appearance in the Top 25 at No. 25 in 22 years in 2006. With that in mind, Barnes Arico knows how her players should act moving forward.
“I want to keep our kids (in the same thought process) and humble and (make sure they remain) the hardest-working team in America and just trying to get better each and every day,” Barnes Arico said. “(We need to continue) trying to grind it out one win at a time and try to become a better team.”
For the Wolverines and their five seniors, including senior guard Jenny Ryan, this is the second major accomplishment that Michigan has achieved in the last calendar year — the Wolverines made their first NCAA Tournament in 11 years last season.
“When we first got here, we weren’t really known on the national level,” Ryan said. “I just think on a program level, it shows how far we’ve come.”
In addition to the ranking, Michigan is also off to its best start ever to begin Big Ten play, at 3-0. While these feats are noteworthy, the team is more focused on the bigger picture and the early stages of Big Ten play.
“It’s great to be in that position, but it’s still really early in the season,” said senior forward Rachel Sheffer. “It’s really early to be looking at those kind of things. I think as a team we’re not really about rankings or stats, we just need to keep moving to the tournament.”