The Michigan women’s basketball team may not be opening with marquee opposition, but playing on back-to-back days is the type of initial challenge coach Kim Barnes Arico wants to see her team respond to.
Binghamton will visit Crisler Center on Saturday for the Wolverines’ first game of the 2015-16 season. Michigan will then make the short trip to Detroit on Sunday to finish the weekend doubleheader.
With the end goal of a return to the NCAA Tournament, a place they haven’t been since 2013, the Wolverines are hoping to grab momentum right from the start.
Michigan already appears to be firing on all cylinders after several players put together impressive performances in last Sunday’s exhibition win over Ferris State.
The Wolverines’ freshman trio of center Hallie Thome and guards Lauren ‘Boogie’ Brozoski and Nicole Munger had an instant impact against the Bulldogs.
The freshmen showed no signs of wearing down against Ferris State, but Barnes Arico will monitor how her younger players deal with the fatigue of playing on back-to-back days.
“With the freshmen, it’s going to be the grind of the season,” Barnes Arico said. “How much they can handle bouncing back from playing, then playing another game a few days later. That determines how ready they are.”
Neither the Bearcats nor Titans are expected to put up a huge challenge for the Wolverines — the two teams had a combined 16-44 record in 2014-15 — but they will give Barnes Arico the first chance to evaluate her young players’ fitness.
RULE CHANGES: Saturday will also be the first competitive matchup for Michigan under the new NCAA rules package.
Most changes are related to the switch from 20-minute halves to 10-minute quarters. There will be one media timeout at the first stoppage under five minutes in each quarter. Team fouls will also be accumulated by quarter, and teams reach the double bonus on the fifth team foul of each period.
After made baskets or once possession is secured with under a minute left in the fourth quarter and overtime periods, teams will be allowed to advance the ball to the frontcourt when a timeout is called. The change is meant to add exciting possessions at the end of games, replicating a similar rule used in the WNBA.
Other major adjustments include a reduction in the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, a decrease in allotted team timeouts from five to four and a policy lessening the frequency of hand-check fouls on post defenders.
SIGNING DAY: Michigan announced on Wednesday the signing of four players for its 2016 class. Guard Kysre Gondrezick has received the most national attention. The Benton Harbor, Mich., native was ranked No. 70 in ESPN’s HoopGurlz ratings and is regarded as the top-rated player in the state.
Toledo Rogers teammates Akienreh Johnson and KeAsja Peace will stay together when they arrive in Ann Arbor next fall. Johnson, a 6-foot guard, and Peace, a 6-foot-3 forward, were each given three-star ratings by HoopGurlz and will add much-needed height to Barnes Arico’s lineup next season.
Rounding out the class is 6-foot-1 forward Kayla Robbins. The Maryland native is a natural small forward who has great rebounding and shooting ability. Robbins, rated No. 93 by HoopGurlz, will add versatility and athleticism to Michigan.
The quartet is Barnes Arico’s second consecutive top-20 class and adds excitement to the program.
“I am super excited about the 2016 class,” Barnes Arico said in a statement. “For us to have back-to-back top classes nationally says a lot about the direction of our program. Three out of the four have been committed for a long time, which says a lot about what they thought about our program. They all bring a little something different in terms of basketball skills and will fill a variety of roles for our program.”