YPSILANTI Last year, the Michigan women”s basketball team earned itself an eight seed in the NCAA tournament. Where do three fewer Big Ten wins leave them? The exact same spot.
Michigan will play against Virginia, which finished sixth in the ACC, this Saturday in South Bend. The Cavaliers had an 8-8 conference record, and were 18-12 overall.
Michigan managed to find itself on the stable side of the bubble at the Big Ten Tournament last weekend after defeating No. 19 Penn State for the third time this season. The Wolverines were inconsistent all season after losing first-team all-Big Ten star Stacey Thomas to graduation. They dropped from second in the conference to fifth, and fell from the national rankings where they appeared for the first time ever last year.
Lack of respect has been an ongoing complaint of coach Sue Guevara, but continued success is the only way to earn it. In the past four years, Guevara”s squad has been invited to the Big Dance three times. Each trip ended with a first-round loss.
“This has to be a little different than the last time we (went),” Guevara said. “It”s an eight-nine game, so I”m sure we”re evenly matched.”
But the challenge of the eight seed is waiting in the second round. This year, the bracket gods have structured the tournament such that Notre Dame, ranked first nationally, will most likely be waiting patiently in the round of 32.
“When you get to the NCAA Tournament, if you keep going you”re going to play one of the top four teams in the country,” Guevara said.
But Michigan is hoping for at least one win, and counting on its experience to give the Wolverines a boost through the second round.
“Last year we played Stanford and put in a really tough effort, and then in a heartbreaker, lost,” senior captain Anne Thorius said. “But each year you get better and get a little more experienced, and, now, we have a lot of people on the team who have played in postseason games. That experience is definitely going to carry over.”
The multiple trips to the realm of postseason play pay multiple dividends. Not only does experience help the Wolverine cause in the tournament, but national exposure helps earn any team spots in the national polls, and easier paths to the Big Dance.
“It”s being there every year, year after year,” athletic director Bill Martin said. “You”ve got to gain respect for your program. I think it”s wonderful, the way (the program) is advancing.”