Michigan women”s basketball coach Sue Guevara has coached five seasons for the Maize and Blue. Her team has reached the postseason four of those five seasons, and she has won more Big Ten games than any previous coach of the team. She is one win shy of being the all-time leader among Michigan women”s basketball coaches.
But not one of her 92 victories has been in the NCAA tournament.
Last year, as an eight seed, the Wolverines lost a first-round game to Stanford, in overtime, 81-74. This year it”s like dj vu, as another year has earned the team another eight seed and a game against No. 9 seed Virginia, and it seems like an omen for another tournament failure.
But Guevara and her team are aware of their recent sub-par postseason performances, and have no intention of continuing them this weekend.
“This has to be a little different,” Guevara said. “The difference is this team will have the experience factor. There”s no substitute (for) that. They have a better idea of how to prepare and what to expect.”
Senior captain Anne Thorius will be playing in her fourth postseason in four years. Her leadership will be a vital part of the team”s effort, but she has faith in her teammates” experience as well.
“Each year you get better and get a little more experienced,” Thorius said. “It might have been the WNIT Alayne”s freshman year, or the NCAA”s last year, but each year you take something, as far as effort, or how you approach a game.”
Michigan had reached the Big Dance only once before Guevara”s coaching tenure. In the 1989-90 season the Wolverines not only qualified but won the only NCAA Tournament game in the program”s history a 77-68 win against Oklahoma.
Since coming to Michigan, Guevara has built a team that is consistently among the best in the Big Ten, finishing in the top-half of the conference every year since her second season. Continued success breeds future success, and Guevara knows that her team needs to keep making the tournament, and eventually win there, if it is going to make the leap to the next level.
“You aren”t going to win a national championship until you have gone to the tournament year in and year out,” Guevara said. “You have to take those baby steps to climb the ladder to the to the top. Then down the road someone will look at Michigan and see that we are getting better. They will come here to help us make that next step to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight.”
The success that Michigan has had during this regular season and last has been quiet, and Guevara has complained about the lack of respect her team earns in national polls. But the Wolverines” seed is appropriate, by Guevara”s measure, and their third appearance on national television this season should help the team gain exposure.
“I think last year I was angry because of our seed,” Guevara said. “This year we are very deserving of an eight seed. I think (for) the kids, it”s better for them knowing that we are on ESPN because the whole country is watching. We”ve got to go in feeling confident in our game plan, and confident in our ability.”
Back to the Dance they go, and this time the Wolverines want, and more importantly for the team, need, a victory to keep the program advancing in the right direction.
“I think it”s ok if (the team) wants to think (about advancing past the first round), instead of thinking we are just happy to be here,” Guevara said. “Last year were taking pictures, down on the court next to the tournament seal. But (being at the tournament) is not a novelty anymore. Let”s get a win.”