Up until this year, Kevin Borseth and the Michigan women’s basketball team have been on opposite tracks.
For Borseth, each of his nine seasons at Wisconsin-Green Bay resulted in a NCAA or WNIT bid. Finishing first in regular-season Horizon League play each year, his Phoenix always had another game after the conference tournament.
For Michigan, there was never a postseason. With losing records since the 2002-03 season, the Wolverines never got to see the court after bowing out of the Big Ten Tournament.
But when Borseth joined the Michigan staff, he immediately brought a winning culture to a team that had once dwelled in the basement of the Big Ten.
While he hasn’t ensured the Wolverines a bid in a tournament, Borseth has given them a feeling the Wolverines haven’t felt in a long time – the possibility of a postseason bid.
“I think it’s exciting,” senior captain Krista Clement said. “It’s always hard for seniors to leave basketball – something they’ve been doing their whole life. Any extra opportunity is a good one.”
And then there’s the flip side.
“There’s really uncertainty right now,” Borseth said.
Whether it’s excitement or uncertainty, Michigan will learn its fate Monday evening following the NCAA selections.
With a 17-13 record, the Wolverines have put together a résumé that appears WNIT-worthy. In 2002, Michigan made the WNIT with the exact same record.
But unlike that season, this year’s team hasn’t won against a top-25 team. Michigan’s three ranked opponents crushed the Wolverines by an average of 27.7 points. But the team suffered those losses early in the season.
Another factor is Illinois’s run in the Big Ten Tournament. Emerging from the ninth spot, the Fighting Illini convincingly beat a hot Wisconsin team and notched a win over No. 22 Ohio State. They were seconds short of an automatic NCAA bid but lost to Purdue in the conference title game. Michigan finished ahead of Illinois in the standings and split a pair of regular season contests.
“I don’t know if that has any bearing on us other than the fact that Illinois would take our spot,” Borseth said. “But we can all speculate. I’m just worried about us right now.”
Part of that worry is the inability to plan for the next game. Without a squad to prepare for, the Wolverines are running 5-on-5 full-court drills with a focus on their recent struggles, including blocking out and the ball screen, rather than introducing more elements.
Borseth has also made a point to play the seniors as much as possible during practice. After taking the weekend off, Michigan will continue practice for the remainder of the week.
And while it can be monotonous, Clement and fellow seniors are cherishing every minute.
“Being considered for the NIT, we get the opportunity to practice another week,” Clement said. “We get to play basketball for another week.”
If the Wolverines claim one of the WNIT’s 17 at-large bids, the seniors will get to play basketball for at least one more week. But Clement understands it’ll mean much more than that.
“It’s a great opportunity to get some postseason experience,” Clement said. “And to have people on the team, not necessarily for the seniors but the underclassmen, understand what it takes to get to being a team that gets to play in a tournament every year.”
It’s a change in routine that no Wolverine would mind.