In Michigan coach Kevin Borseth’s first season at the helm of the Wolverines in 2007-08, the Michigan women’s basketball team made an unexpected run to qualify for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Two years later, with a grander goal — an NCAA Tournament bid — and even lesser expectations — the team was picked to finish last in the Big Ten preseason by both the media and coaches — this season’s Wolverines hoped to make an even bigger splash.
But following Sunday’s 73-61 loss to Wisconsin, that dream may have been shattered.
The loss dropped Michigan to 6-10 in the conference and 14-12 overall. The Wolverines have fallen to eighth place in a conference that sent five teams to The Big Dance a year ago. And with two games left before the Big Ten Tournament, the team has no chance of even finishing .500 in conference play.
“We don’t necessarily sit down and say … ‘We want to win 20 games or we want to finish first place in the conference,’ ” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said at Big Ten Media Day prior to the season. “I just think there are goals inside you every year that tell you, you want to get into the NCAA Tournament. I think that’s what every program wants to do.”
But barring an unlikely run in the conference tournament, that hope won’t be realized.
Still, Michigan has plenty to play for. Though the Wolverines may not accomplish their ultimate goal, they are in a good position to qualify for the WNIT, which would serve as more than just a consolation prize for a team with six freshmen.
A WNIT berth would also reward seniors Krista Phillips and Kalyn McPherson with a few more games in their college careers.
Of course, the Wolverines still have some work to do, and looking too far ahead won’t do any good as the regular season comes to a close.
The 2007 WNIT team finished 9-9 in the conference, 16-12 overall and added a win in the Big Ten Tournament.
A year ago, Indiana and Wisconsin went to the WNIT out of the Big Ten. The Hoosiers had finished 11-7 in the conference, while the Badgers finished with a meager 6-12 record, but made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Michigan, already in good position record-wise, has several advantages over the WNIT teams from three years ago.
The national perception of the Big Ten has improved since three teams advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament a year ago. This year’s Michigan team also put together an impressive nonconference slate, including a win at then-No. 8 Xavier.
For the Wolverines, a strong enough finish to make those postseason aspirations a reality would include winning at Minnesota and beating Purdue in the regular season finale.
And should the team still hold its preseason dreams of playing in The Big Dance, three or four wins in the Big Ten Tournament wouldn’t hurt much, either.