It may not have been what the Wolverines wanted at first, but they”re going to take it.
Michigan was invited to the Women”s National Invitation Tournament last night and will play Valparaiso in the first round at Crisler Arena on Wednesday night. The game will be played at 7 p.m.
The 32-team tournament, comprised of some of the best teams that did not make the NCAA field, will be played at campus sites through the final that will be played during the last week of March. The Wolverines played in the WNIT back in 1999 when they beat Western Michigan in Kalamazoo before losing to Michigan State in East Lansing.
“It”s a really great opportunity to keep our season going for a couple weeks,” Michigan coach Sue Guevara said.
Valparaiso finished the season with a 24-6 record and a 13-1 record in conference play, which placed it comfortably in first place in the Mid-Continent Conference. But the Crusaders lost in their conference tournament final to Oakland, and their low strength of schedule left them out of the NCAA field.
If the Wolverines can get past the Crusaders, they will play either Louisville or Ball State this weekend. Michigan has applied to host every game that it participates in through the final, but the site of each game will not be announced until after each round. Other teams on Michigan”s side of the bracket include Virginia Tech, Rice, Houston and Georgia Tech.
“At this point everybody is a strong team,” Guevara said.
Teams from the Big Ten have done extremely well in the tournament over the past few years. Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State won the tournament in 2001, 2000, and 1998, respectively, and Wisconsin also made it to the final in 1999. Illinois and Michigan State also made the field this season as the Fighting Illini will host Western Kentucky and the Spartans will host DePaul on Thursday. The only other WNIT team Michigan played this season in the field is Washington, which Michigan beat on two last second free throws by LeeAnn Bies in Seattle back in December.
Michigan, after making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, was predicted by many to be in the tourney again this year and by some to be a high seed. And after the team”s 10-1 start and the program”s highest ranking ever it seemed like that was going to happen. But Michigan”s 6-10 Big Ten record leaves it with unfinished business.
“We”re in the NIT, so let”s win the thing,” Guevara said.
Michigan would hope the way it played last week in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Tournament can be a stepping stone of better things to come in the WNIT. The Wolverines defeated Illinois by 20 in the first round and took Purdue, which got a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament field also announced yesterday, to overtime before falling apart in the final minutes.
The one-and-done atmosphere brought out the best of the Wolverines, and Guevara hopes the intensity the team displayed will continue into March.
“They were really disappointed after losing to Purdue and they didn”t want their season to end,” Guevara said.