Michigan earns highest NCAA tournament ranking in program history, will face American in first round. Grace Beal/Daily. Buy this photo.

After losing four of its last six games, the Michigan women’s basketball team awaited the fate of potentially not hosting home games in the NCAA Tournament.

That fate was put to rest Sunday night, as the Wolverines earned a No. 3 seed — their highest seed in program history — in the Wichita region. Being a top-four seed allows the team to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. 

“To be a three seed, that’s pretty awesome,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “Being able to host and get another game at Crisler (Center) for our senior class that has meant (so much) to us is really special.” 

Michigan’s first game will be against No. 14 seed American on Saturday. If the Wolverines win, they will face either No. 6 BYU or No. 11 Villanova on Monday.

Fresh off winning the Patriot League tournament championship, the Eagles present a tough challenge. After starting the season 11-6, American has won 12 of its last 14 games. This is in large part due to its defense holding opponents to just 56 points per game — 33rd best in the nation. The team is led by senior guard Jade Edwards. The versatile guard does it all for the Eagles, leading the team in points, minutes, rebounds, steals and blocks.   

“They’re a great program, always successful in their league and have a really good coach,” Barnes Arico said. 

After starting the season 20-2, Michigan struggled down the stretch. It went out in the first round of the Big Ten tournament to Nebraska, losing 76-73, making its seeding more precarious. After the Wolverines were up six with five minutes left in the game, the Cornhuskers ended the game on a 9-2 run, crushing their hopes of a Big Ten tournament championship. 

The No. 3 seed has much to do with the Wolverines early season success. The team started the season 7-0 for the second straight year. After losing to the Cornhuskers 79-58, Michigan compiled an eight-game win streak with wins coming against Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana, and Maryland. The team was particularly successful at home finishing the year 12-0 at the Crisler Center. 

“We’re undefeated at home this year and I think that’s in large part due to our fan base and the support that we’ve gotten throughout the course of the season,” Barnes Arico said. 

Looking to win its first regular season Big Ten championship for the first time in program history, things began to turn for the worse. A combination of injuries and inconsistencies on offense and defense led the Wolverines to losses in four of their last six games. It’s possible they would have had a No. 1 or No. 2 seed if not for the late season sputter. 

Michigan has an opportunity to make program history in the NCAA Tournament. After being so close to capturing a regular season Big Ten title and losing in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines look to advance past the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history.

“(We’re) just really embracing this moment and being excited because there’s no guarantees,” Barnes Arico said. “So just have an appreciation for being able to still be competing, when so many other people are going home at this point, and so many people are disappointed, but really put themselves in a position to continue to play.”