The 2002-03 season has been an embarrassment for the Michigan women’s basketball team. But heading into the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday, some positive things still remain for the Wolverines to play for.
Looking back on Michigan’s conference season, there are some moments that exemplify its shameful season. Following losses to Penn State and Michigan State, Michigan proceeded to drop decisions to two beatable teams in Wisconsin (5-14 overall at the time) and Iowa (3-6 in Big Ten play at the time).
After four straight losses, seeing Northwestern – a team that had lost 10 straight games – on the schedule should have been a relief for Michigan, which headed into Evanston on Feb. 9. But to Michigan coach Sue Guevara’s dismay, her team managed just 12 first-half points – a total which would’ve been just nine if not for a 3-pointer to close the frame – and allowed the Wildcats to string together a 31-0 run in the process. The result: 67-38 loss to a team that had been the laughing stock of the Big Ten for years.
When it looked like things had hit rock bottom, they only got worse. Michigan’s sixth-straight loss came to Wisconsin on Feb. 13, and then Michigan State came to Ann Arbor on Feb. 16.
In front of more then 4,400 fans at Crisler and a national audience, the Wolverines came out sluggish and were easily dominated. The score was 32-6 before you could even spell the word embarrassment, and the team never got closer than 17 points in the second half of the loss.
Now that the conference season is all said and done, Michigan lost 13 of its 16 Big Ten games in a season that was supposed to be no worse than last year’s 6-10 conference mark.
So what’s left for the Wolverines to play for? When four games remained in the season, players talked about pride being what was left. After losing three of those four games, its safe to say that even pride is out the window, along with almost all chances of a post-season berth.
A WNIT bid is now out of the question, because the Wolverines would need to win four tournament games in a row to pull its record above .500, which would mean winning the Big Ten Tournament and therefore an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. True, that scenario is possible, but highly improbable, that Michigan would be able to beat first-round opponent Illinois on Thursday, then Purdue on Friday, and still have to win two more games against the likes of No. 14 Penn State, No. 13 Minnesota or Ohio State, all of which have beaten Michigan twice this season.
But instead of looking at the season as a complete loss and giving up at the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines need to look at the tourney and wipe the slate clean. The team needs to forget about the embarrassing end to its regular season and focus on making something out of nothing. And while they may not be able to win the whole tournament, coming home with a victory would still benefit the team just the same.
Winning a game or two would mean more to the team than just a ‘W’ in the stat book. It would mean important experience for the future of Michigan’s five freshman, and would breathe some life and morale into next year’s team, one that will look to erase the disappointments of past.
And most importantly, coming out strong at the Big Ten Tournament may be the only way for the Wolverines to save some face in an otherwise forgettable season.