Wolverines await WNIT selection

Monday, March 7, 2016 - 6:03pm

Kim Barnes Arico's team should earn another WNIT berth when the brackets are announced Monday.

Kim Barnes Arico's team should earn another WNIT berth when the brackets are announced Monday. Buy this photo
Ryan McLoughlin/Daily

 

Since the 2012-13 season, the Michigan women’s basketball team has failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

And after a short stay in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament last week, it looks like that drought will live on another year.

The Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 17-13 overall) don’t boast the strongest record, and they struggled to collect any “big wins” that could swing the selection committee into giving them a shot. The 64-team NCAA Tournament field will almost certainly leave out Michigan — which finished at a tie for seventh in the Big Ten — so on deck for the team is the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

While the men’s NIT features just 32 teams, the WNIT includes a full 64, and the Wolverines certainly won’t be left out of that.

But exactly where Michigan falls between No. 65 and No. 128 in the country is anyone’s guess.

The team has put together a strong enough season to earn a high seed in the WNIT, which potentially would allow them to host a handful of games.

Instead of playing at neutral sites, the team that records a higher average attendance generally hosts, a feature that played well to the Wolverines advantage last year when they went all the way to the semifinals.

Last year’s WNIT run ended with a loss to the eventual champion, UCLA. And even though it wasn’t the NCAA Tournament — which is always a goal for the team — Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico mentioned that the tournament provided the team, especially then-freshman guard Katelynn Flaherty, with invaluable experience.

Thursday, Flaherty scored 31 points against Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament, setting a single-season scoring record for Michigan with 677 for the year.

Flaherty’s record-breaking season was the biggest reason the team had a chance of reaching the Big Dance this year.

Flaherty led the Wolverines to plenty of almost-wins against top teams like No. 5 Maryland and No. 9 Ohio State, and the first-team All-Big Ten selection played a big role in sweeping a solid Minnesota team led by Naismith Award semifinalist Rachel Banham.

Regardless, Michigan couldn’t build its résumé over the past few months, and it lost control of its postseason destiny as the season wound down.

The following weeks should determine how the Wolverines stack up on the national scale, which has been difficult to interpret all year.

The Wolverines’ third straight WNIT appearance should be confirmed this coming Monday, March 14, when the selection committee reveals the final bracket a day after the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Sunday.

The first round of the WNIT will be held from March 16 to March 18, and the Wolverines will expect to play at Crisler Center sometime in that frame. But as always, nothing is guaranteed.

All they can do now is wait.