It’s been 149 games since the Michigan women’s basketball team last played in a postseason tournament. But the Wolverines will never make it to 150.
The Wolverines (10-10 Big Ten, 17-13 overall) were invited to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament at midnight Tuesday, receiving a first-round bye in the tournament. They will host a second-round game Monday at Crisler Arena against the winner of Saturday’s first-round matchup between Virginia Commonwealth (25-7) and Charlotte (18-13).
“To host is just unreal,” sophomore Krista Phillips said. “Every one of us is just ecstatic to play in front of our home crowd and we just want to get (our fans) back out here.”
Admission to Monday’s game will be free for students.
The postseason bid is the first for anyone on Michigan’s roster. Senior housemates Krista Clement, Katie Dierdorf and Janelle Cooper and junior Carly Benson all stayed up late last night, refreshing their computer screens, to find out if Michigan would be one of 18 teams to receive an at-large bid.
“We were in our house checking the Internet, checking the Internet, checking the Internet,” Clement said. “We were watching the NCAA selection show to see how many Big Ten teams made the NCAA Tournament. We were hoping many Big Ten teams got in the tournament so we would have a better chance to get into the NIT.”
On Monday, Big Ten teams received four bids to the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State’s surprising snub meant that it would be bumped down to the WNIT and left less of a chance for Michigan to grab a spot in the tournament. With one more Big Ten team in the mix, Borseth and the rest of the Wolverines were concerned, because they didn’t know if the WNIT would choose teams like Wisconsin, Indiana or Illinois over Michigan.
“It was nerve-wracking, thinking that they’d put five Big Ten teams in there,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. “We were wondering if we’d beat out Wisconsin or Indiana in the process.”
But, all five teams were invited to the WNIT, meaning nine of eleven Big Ten nine will play in postseason tournaments.
Virginia Commonwealth, with its stronger regular season record, appears to be the more dangerous potential opponent. The Rams made it to the CAA Championship game before losing to No. 14 Old Dominion.
If the Wolverines win their second-round matchup, they will not be able to host a third-round game at Crisler Arena. Michigan is hosting the Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships that weekend. Instead, the Wolverines will likely travel to either Mississippi or Arkansas to play against Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, or Arkansas-Little Rock.
But, for now, Borseth is just glad his team has made it this far.
“We’ve jumped a few hurdles that the program hasn’t jumped the past few years,” Borseth said. “We get a chance to have a winning record and play in a postseason tournament. Everything has really added up, and it’s pretty exciting.”