For many, the Women’s National Invitation Tournament is little more than a consolation prize.
But throughout its unlikely postseason run, the Michigan women’s basketball team played like it was so much more than that.
And during that run, the Wolverines showed me so much about themselves.
Through the first four games of the Wolverines’ postseason, they demonstrated the ability to play with teams outside the Big Ten. They flexed their muscle, beating teams to the tune of 24 points per game on average.
By making it to the WNIT Final Four in such fashion, Michigan even showed that it belonged — maybe even in the field of 64. And for a program with six freshmen that was picked to finish last in the Big Ten and is arguably the worst program historically at the university, what more could you really ask for?
But in Wednesday’s 76-59 loss to Miami, the Wolverines showed — lastly and, maybe, most importantly — that youth is a problem.
The result of this youth presently and its implications for the future are obvious converses of each other.
But based on what happened Wednesday, youth is obviously what did the team in.
Nobody would say it after the game, but as Michigan’s lead began to deteriorate after the Wolverines jumped out to a quick double-digit lead, the team’s confidence slowly began to erode with it.
The Hurricanes were the first team to match Michigan punch for punch this postseason. Miami matched the Wolverines’ intensity, even surpassing it, putting Michigan back on its heels. And by the time the Wolverines snapped back into the moment, Miami’s lead was too large to overcome.
Don’t get me wrong, the Hurricanes played a great game. Well, two Hurricanes played great games.
When Miami’s sophomore guard Riquna Williams had four three-point plays on four straight possessions, including three triples, you could tell she was already on her way to having the game of her life — she finished with 26 points. Her cohort, Shenise Johnson — who had 33 points in the WNIT quarterfinal matchup against Providence — added 17 points and nine rebounds of her own.
Maybe I’m selling Charmaine Clark’s double-double short, but that was a two-man team.
And a veteran squad doesn’t lose to a team like that, at home, in arguably the biggest game of their lives.
This isn’t a veteran team — that’s the bad.
But where’s the good in all this?
That this isn’t a veteran team.
And that’s the perplexing and dumbfounding result of having a team with six freshmen.
They’ll all be back. Each of them was a part of the Wolverines’ second-winningest team in program history.
Four starters will return next year, with the most significant loss being 6-foot-6 center Krista Phillips.
And to Michigan, for right now and for the future, its unlikely WNIT was more than just a consolation.