I had it all written in my head.
After the Michigan women’s basketball team upset then-No. 24 Ohio State for the second time this season and vaulted into a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten on Thursday, I figured the Wolverines were well on their way to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2001 and possibly their first Big Ten title since … ever — and I was going to let everybody know about it.
Suddenly, Michigan had the chance to be a basketball school again. A women’s basketball school. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch, but maybe students on campus would recognize the names Veronica Hicks or Carmen Reynolds as Michigan basketball players, not just the girls sitting next to them in class.
I’d present my case of why this team is worth watching, and the campus would go into a women’s basketball frenzy (it doesn’t hurt to dream) — the first in Ann Arbor.
But then, Sunday rolled around and the Wolverines headed to Minneapolis to take on the Big Ten bottom-dwelling Golden Gophers. I was so convinced they’d win that I already had half of my story written before tipoff.
As you may have guessed by now, Minnesota beat Michigan (6-3 Big Ten, 13-8 overall) handily, as the Golden Gophers led the entire game en route to a 60-50 victory.
And just like that, there went my brilliant idea for a story. How could I make a plug for a team that just lost to the worst team in the league?
The answer: I couldn’t. But I could do something else.
In my eyes, there are two women’s basketball teams in Ann Arbor.
First, there’s the team that lost to Minnesota on Sunday. That’s the team that turns the ball over four times before finally converting its first field goal, the team who gets out-hustled, out-rebounded and “out-physicalled,” as Michigan coach Kevin Borseth called it after the Minnesota game. And it’s the team who simply doesn’t have the resilience to come back when it’s down.
It’s the same team that got smoked at home by Detroit — a team at the bottom of the Horizon League standings — earlier in the season.
And then there’s the team that stormed back from a 13-point halftime deficit last Thursday to beat Ohio State in Columbus to complete its first series sweep of the Buckeyes in program history.
That’s the team that has players step up in big-time moments — players like sophomore Rachel Sheffer, who scored a career-high 23 points in Columbus and nailed two pressure-packed free throws with under 30 seconds left to give Michigan the lead.
It’s a team with players like Hicks (I’m convinced her picture is in the dictionary under “senior leader”), who led her team to four straight victories and to the top of the conference standings en route to her first-career Big Ten Player of the Week award.
It’s an undersized team that annoys the hell out of bigger opponents — often putting three or four players on the block, swatting the ball at every opportunity. It’s the team that held three-time Big Ten Player of the Year Jantel Lavender to a career-low 10 points last Thursday.
It’s the team that beat three ranked teams in consecutive games in December.
That team is fun to watch. And for the most part, that team has been in Ann Arbor so far this year.
But with three of Michigan’s next five games coming against the Big Ten leaders — starting with Penn State at home on Thursday — a question remains.
Do the Wolverines have what it takes to earn their first NCAA berth in 10 years?
There’s one Michigan women’s basketball team that does.