The madness of March ensues in men’s and women’s basketball.
MSU is back for a sixth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 5 seed women’s basketball team was placed in the Stanford region, and their appearance marks the 14th showing in program history.
They will be facing No. 12 seed Hampton (28-4), the MEAC tournament champions. The Pirates have won their last 18 games. Freshman guard, Malia Tate-DeFreitas, who averages 18.5 points per game, leads them.
The Spartans won the Big Ten regular season title this season, going 13-3 in conference play and 22-9 overall.
Redshirt freshman Aerial Powers leads the Spartans averaging 13.4 points and eight rebounds per game. Three other Spartans are also averaging double figures in scoring. Senior Annalise Pickrel and freshman Tori Jankoska average 12.4 points per game and junior Becca Mills is averaging 10.1 points each game.
If MSU wins in the first round they will face No. 4 seed North Carolina (24-9) or No. 13 seed Tennessee-Martin (24-7).
Captain Klarissa Bell, who averages 7.6 points and five rebounds a game, is excited to be playing in North Carolina.
“I think going to North Carolina just brings sun and that just brings everybody’s energy and moods up honestly. So I’m excited about going there,” Bell said. “It’s a new facility, new area, hopefully we can make some good memories there.”
The other captain, Pickrel, said she does not care where they play and she just hopes her team realizes that they can go far.
“I know that we would be really excited to play North Carolina so we just have to stay focused for our first game,” Pickrel said.
MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said she is not thinking about the fact that they may face North Carolina in the second round.
“I don’t think you get into too many dream match-ups. I think at this time of year you just kind of keep your eye on the prize and work at competing and putting the best game plan together to get after- whether it be Hampton the first game, and then if we’re lucky enough to move along, the second game,” Merchant said.
The Spartans head into the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Hampton on Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Tip-off is set for 12:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
Sierra Williams is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Nubia Buckingham/Impact Sports