UM, CMU women take on NCAA tournament

Associated Press • Mar 12, 2018 at 10:55 PM

Michigan women make NCAA Tournament as No. 7 seed, will face Northern Colorado

Michigan women's basketball's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2013 will begin in Waco, Texas.

With the announcement of the 64-team field Monday night, the Wolverines are a No. 7 seed of the Lexington Region and will face No. 10 seed Northern Colorado (26-6) at 5 p.m. Friday (ESPN2).

Northern Colorado won the Big Sky Conference and enters the tournament on a 13-game winning streak.

Michigan (22-9) entered the final week of the regular season on the tournament bubble, but it earned a crucial 71-65 victory over then 13th-ranked Maryland in its final game on Feb. 22.

The Wolverines, ranked 39th in RPI, opened the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 6 seed and defeated No. 11 seed Penn State 77-48 in the first round before losing to No. 3 seed Nebraska 61-54 in a quarterfinal.

The team enters the NCAA Tournament with one of the best duos in the country. Senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, the program's all-time leading scorer, ranks fifth in the nation at 23.2 points per game.

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Junior center Hallie Thome is averaging 17 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 61.5 percent from the field, which is third-best in the Big Ten.

Michigan accepted an invitation to the WNIT the previous four years since last earning an NCAA Tournament berth in head coach Kim Barnes Arico's first season.

The team, which won the WNIT championship last season, was on the bubble last year after losing three of its final four games in the regular season. It dropped its conference tournament opener to Michigan State, costing the team a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

This season, the Wolverines appeared to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament in January with a program-best 18-4 start and a No. 13 ranking in the country.

However, they sputtered down the stretch, losing four of their next six before upending Maryland.

Central Michigan women open with LSU at Columbus, Ohio

In its 50th year of women's basketball, Central Michigan earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

The Chippewas (28-4, 17-1 Mid-American Conference) on Monday were announced as the No. 11 seed in the Spokane Region, and will open against No. 6 LSU (19-9, 11-5 SEC) at 11 a.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

CMU coaches, players and fans gathered Monday night to watch the bracket reveal, just two days after securing the bid with a 96-91 MAC tournament championship victory over Buffalo in Cleveland.

"Seeing your name go up on the big screen is awesome," Guevara said Monday night, during the watch party at Hunter's Ale House. "I think it'll be a good matchup, and it's in Columbus where our fans can go, so I think that's even better."

A win in the first round would give Central an opportunity to play against either No. 3 seed and pod host Ohio State or No. 14 George Washington next Monday.

The Chippewas have never won an NCAA Tournament game. They're playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

As a No. 11 seed in 2013, Central was knocked out in the first round by No. 6 Oklahoma, 78-73. Guevara also went to the NCAA Tournament three times as the head coach at Michigan.

The furthest Guevara has taken a team in the Big Dance was No. 8 Michigan to the second round in 2001, but the Wolverines then were bounced by No. 1 Notre Dame, 88-54.

"I don't want to do the two-step: One step in, one step out," Guevara said. "I want to cha-cha a little bit. We want to go and show people that the MAC is a very, very good conference and we have good coaches in this league."

Buffalo, the team CMU defeated for the MAC tournament title, received an at-large bid and the No. 11 seed in the Albany Region, giving the MAC two bids.

Also in attendance at the watch party Monday night was athletic director Michael Alford and men's basketball coach Keno Davis.


Tip-off: 11 a.m. Saturday, Schottenstein Center, Columbus, Ohio


Records: No. 11 Central Michigan 28-4, 17-1 Mid-American Conference; No. 6 LSU 19-9, 11-5 SEC

Outlook: CMU aims to earn its first NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Prior to 2018, the Chippewas played in the 1983, 1984 and 2013 NCAA Tournaments, but fell short in the first round each time.

Evan Petzold is a freelance writer.

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