The Michigan women’s basketball team has smashed its single-season win record. Formerly stuck at 22, the Wolverines have won 26 games already, and their season is not over. Yet after racking up four wins in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, Michigan is in the same place it has ended its last two seasons.                     

In 2015, the Wolverines faced UCLA in the semifinal round of the WNIT, and lost by just four points to the eventual champions. The Wolverines were the only Big Ten team invited to the WNIT, as Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State and Rutgers all earned bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Despite its eighth place finish in the Big Ten, Michigan redeemed its 2014-15 season in the WNIT. The Wolverines outlasted all of their fellow conference teams in postseason play except for the Terrapins, who made it to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. After a mediocre season, Michigan’s third place WNIT finish was an impressive accomplishment.

In 2016, the Wolverines’ season came to an end after losing 71-62 in the WNIT semifinal to Florida Gulf Coast. Leading up to the matchup, Michigan faced tough non-conference teams in Wright State, Bucknell, San Diego and Temple. The Wolverines scored over 75 points in each game to move on to the penultimate round.

Out of seven Big Ten teams competing in 2016, Michigan made it the furthest of in the WNIT, despite finishing seventh in the conference.  

This season is different, though. Michigan fully expected to be selected to the NCAA Tournament after its third place finish in the Big Ten. The Wolverines spent three weeks ranked in the top-25 in the nation — the first time they earned a spot in the coveted rankings since 2013 (coincidentally the last time they made the NCAA Tournament). While winning the NCAA Tournament would still have been a long shot, it was a shock for them not to be chosen to compete, especially since two teams behind the Wolverines in the Big Ten standings made the Big Dance.

That’s why, if Michigan finishes its season by losing to Villanova in the semifinal round of the WNIT, it will be a disappointment. Led by senior guard Siera Thompson, junior guard Katelynn Flaherty and sophomore center Hallie Thome, Michigan is better than it was in those seasons.

Thompson now holds the all-time assists record, Thome has the record for best field goal percentage in program history and Flaherty occupies the top spot for points in a single season, points per game and field goals made. Even without their third-best scorer, freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick — who began an “indefinite leave of absence” on Mar. 23 — the Wolverines have plenty of prolific players.

Winning the WNIT should not be out of reach. Yet Michigan has been unpredictable this season.

Though the Wolverines have momentum after beating four consecutive WNIT opponents, they also seemed to have confidence going into the last four games of the regular season. Michigan lost three of those four games, and the losing streak carried over into the Big Ten Tournament, where it fell to Michigan State in the first round.

This season is still supposed to be different, but only if the Wolverines win the WNIT and hang a championship banner in Crisler Center. Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

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