GRAND RAPIDS At the beginning of the season, Michigan coach Sue Guevara believed that her team needed to get 18 wins in order to make it into the NCAA Tournament. Now that it is at that plateau at 18-11, she won”t make any promises, but is fairly confident.
“There are a couple things in life that are guaranteed: You are going to die and you are going to pay taxes in the reverse order,” Guevara said when asked whether the 18 wins secured a spot in the tournament. “But the probability (of getting in) is better than what it was when we came” to the Big Ten Tournament.
At the tournament, the Wolverines defeated No. 19 Penn State for the third time this season, but fell in the semifinals to No. 8 Purdue.
For Michigan to get a bid, it is likely that five teams from the Big Ten must be selected. Purdue and Iowa are in without a doubt. Wisconsin and Penn State, both of which lost in the first round and have 10 losses apiece, are in because of a strong conference performance. That leaves Michigan as the fifth team. Illinois could even make a case to be selected as the fifth or sixth team after its win over the Badgers, but 16 losses will probably keep it out.
In the past two years, only four Big Ten teams have been selected, but in each of those years, the fifth team has never been this close.
“I hope that when the committee starts making its choices and they start looking at these teams that they look and see that we”ve (beat Penn State three times) and that they give us a little respect,” Guevara said.
Michigan has five victories over ranked opponents including the season opener upset over No. 5 Louisiana Tech. But losses to unranked opponents and blowout Big Ten losses may keep it away from the dance.
Penn State coach Rene Portland also believes that the Big Ten suffers from a lack of respect. In 1999, the Nittany Lions finished second in the conference, only to earn a No. 8 seed at the NCAA. The same happened to the Wolverines last year after finishing second in the Big Ten.
“I”ve questioned all year the RPI of this league and we are going to find out if it really comes back and hurts us,” Portland said. “The lack of scheduling certainly not of Michigan but of the lower teams in our league. They chose not to schedule to compete, they decided to schedule for confidence. They are the people that really hurt this league.”
The Big Ten is the fourth-rated conference in the RPI behind the SEC, ACC and Big 12. Portland even believes that this may lock out the fifth or even fourth team from the Big Ten.
“If it comes up to bite Michigan or Penn State, or knocks out a team like Illinois out of the tournament, it is because of the lower teams in this conference,” Portland said.
Michigan State and Minnesota, at ninth and tenth in the conference each came into conference play with .500 records, only to go 4-12 and 1-15 in Big Ten play, respectively.
Michigan now must wait until Sunday, Mar. 11, when its fate will be decided by the NCAA selection committee.