Michigan and Northern Colorado rightfully had wild celebrations after making the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
Now, both will see which team gets the right to celebrate an NCAA Tournament victory.
The Wolverines and Bears both achieved their primary objective this season and believe they’re playing with house money when they meet in a first-round NCAA Tournament game on Friday in Waco, Texas.
Reaching the NCAA Tournament is a historic occasion for Northern Colorado, which will be making its first-ever trip to the tournament.
The Bears enter 26-6 and have won nine straight games, the latest a 91-69 victory over Idaho in the Big Sky tournament final last Saturday.
“I am looking at this situation and so excited for this group,” Northern Colorado coach Katie Ethridge said. “It is just a great opportunity for our program and we have gone through so much this season as a group that I’m excited for this experience for them.
“We are playing our best basketball of the season and are a confident group, which will be fun to see how they handle this experience.”
The Bears are led by two Savannahs in the backcourt, junior Savannah Smith and senior Savannah Scott.
Smith is leading the team with an 18.5 per game scoring average. Scott is not far behind at 16.8 points per game.
While it is not the first-ever NCAA appearance for Michigan, the Wolverines were rightfully jubilant when their name was called on Monday’s selection show.
Michigan was a bubble team that was left out of last year’s tournament, but the Wolverines rebounded this year with a 22-9 record and a better resume.
Michigan had three wins against teams ranked in the top 25 in RPI and no bad losses.
“Last year will always leave a mark on us, but this year is a different team,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told The Detroit News. “We were on a mission and we had different results than we did last year with beating Ohio State, Maryland and Marquette. Having those top RPI wins truly helped us.”
Michigan is led by its top scorer in school history, senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, who in January broke Glen Rice’s record for most career points by a basketball player at the school, man or woman.
Flaherty enters with 110 made 3-pointers this year and is the second player in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history with 400 career 3-pointers.
“I think you’re happy to be in, but obviously the goal is to continue to win and to try to advance as far as you can,” Arico said to The Detroit News. “I walk into practice every day this week and I look at (senior) Jillian (Dunston) and Katelynn and I don’t want it to come to an end.
“I want to make sure we have as many days of walking into practice and seeing them there as much as we can because of who they are and what they mean to the program.”
The winner will face host Baylor or Grambling in the round of 32.