The Michigan women’s basketball team begins its quest to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year on Friday. In their first and only exhibition game, the Wolverines will take on Slippery Rock at 7 pm in the newly renovated Crisler Center.
Though Michigan’s fascination for Slippery Rock rarely extends past the football field, the Wolverines know the matchup is a good starting point for their season. New Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico will begin her quest to match the success she had at St. John’s, a program she led to the last three NCAA Tournaments including 2012’s Sweet 16.
Barnes Arico will look to her veterans to lead the way. The Wolverines return three starters from last years squad — senior trio guard Jenny Ryan, forward Rachel Sheffer, and guard Nya Jordan — and with the strong addition of four freshman led by guard Madison Ristovski, Michigan has high expectations for the season.
With the graduation of key players, the Wolverines will look to Scheffer’s scoring abilities from last season, where she averaged 12.8 points per game. In addition to Scheffer’s scoring, the all-around play of Ryan who averaged 6.8 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, while dishing out 4 assists per game, and 3 blocks per game.
Unranked with only nine votes, Michigan came up empty in the pre-season polls to start the season.
“For myself, I don’t think I can worry about (the pre-season rankings),” Barnes Arico said. “I think all we’re concerned about is Michigan’s women’s basketball, which is getting better each and every day.”
On the other side, Slippery Rock is led by sophomore wing D’Asia Chambers who averaged 9.8 points per game while pulling down 4.8 rebounds per game last season. Slippery Rock will also look to the lone returning starter, Erinne Cunningham, who averaged 7.8 points per game, while dishing out 2.8 assists per game last season.
Despite being projected to finish last in the PSAC-West, Slippery Rock is not paying attention to preseason picks.
“We don’t put much weight in the preseason poll,” said Slippery Rock coach Tayna Longo. “We think we have the deepest and most talented team we have had in the last three years.”