After what was a historic regular season for the Wolverines, Michigan was left out of the NCAA Tournament and will compete in the first round of the WNIT this Thursday at home at 7pm against Kent State. Entering selection Monday with a 22-9 record, Michigan was sitting on the bubble after losing four of its last five games including two losses against Michigan State, with one of those losses coming in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Despite the slide at the end of the season, the Wolverines were confident that they would slip into the tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season, however the NCAA selection committee had different thoughts.
Although the Wolverines will be disappointed in their postseason path, going into selection Monday there was a chance they would be excluded from the big dance. Without any major resume building wins in combination with their poor finish, Michigan prevented themselves from solidifying a spot in the tournament. However, the Wolverines did have a tough non-conference schedule with a lot of road games in which they were able to defeat a ranked Gonzaga team to go along with an impressive 14-1 home record. Nevertheless, Michigan was unable to take down the Big Ten’s best in Maryland and Ohio State, lost to MSU twice, and were unable to close out their last regular season game in a close competition against Penn State in Happy Valley.
Despite these reasons, it’s still head-scratching that the Wolverines, number three in the Big Ten and ranked in the top 25 for a good part of the season, have been left out of the NCAA Tournament. Teams with a worse RPI, record and weaker schedules made the tournament over the Wolverines. Overall, the committee seemed to show a lack of respect for the Big Ten, only selecting four Big Ten teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue). In addition, Maryland was dropped to a three seed despite being ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll.
Although its exclusion from the tournament is a major disappointment, Michigan must remained focused on the positives. Moving forward, this team has tremendous potential. Michigan is a young team with promising talent that will only get better as young players get more experience and become stronger in the off-season.
Now it’s time for the Wolverines to narrow in on one goal: win the WNIT. Even though the WNIT is a consolation tournament, Michigan, who has made deep runs in the WNIT the past three years, believes they are a NCAA Tournament team. The Wolverines need to prove to themselves and the NCAA that they are in fact an improved and different team. Making it to the semifinals of the WNIT the past two years, Michigan was unable to get over the hump to the finals. This year the Wolverines cannot let their disappointment stop them from winning the WNIT, instead they must use this disappoint as fuel and motivation to push themselves to a new level of success.
Seniors Siera Thompson and Danielle Williams, Kim Barnes Arico’s first recruiting class, wanted to win the Big Ten tournament, put a banner in Crisler, and finally compete in the NCAA tournament. They were unable to accomplish those goals but they still have the ability to do something that has never been done in Michigan women’s basketball history, put a banner of any type in the rafters of Crisler. If the Wolverines can win the WNIT, the banner will be a final accomplishment for the seniors who have helped changed the direction of this basketball program. A WNIT championship banner would represent how far the program has come and remind the team of where they truly want to go.