The Michigan State women’s basketball team was bounced out of the Big Ten tournament on Friday by top-seeded Maryland by a score of 71-55. Though the Spartans’ regular season is over, they’re not done yet. Their solid regular season performance will earn them a spot in the NCAA tournament, which begins in two weeks.
The Spartans must regroup and prepare for their final games of the year. The question is, what can we expect out of this team in the tournament? Can they make a serious run, or are they going to be bounced out after the first weekend?
Coach Suzy Merchant likes the Spartans’ chances.
“To me, we’ve demonstrated the ability to do it, no question about it…we can really catch fire at any time,” she said.
The official bracket for the tournament will be revealed on Mar. 18, so who the Spartans will face is unknown. ESPN’s projected bracket currently has the Spartans as the ninth-seeded team in the Portland region, facing eighth-seeded California.
Cal comes into the tournament with an unimpressive resume. They have two wins against ranked teams – a close win against No. 7 Stanford and a solid victory against No. 20 Arizona State. But they also had embarrassing losses to teams toward the bottom the Pac-12 standings such as Arizona and USC, along with a non-conference loss to Harvard, which isn’t exactly a powerhouse program.
However, they have some impressive players. Senior Kristine Anigwe is the nation’s top rebounder, averaging 16.4 rebounds per game. She also has a double-double in every game this season. If the Spartans draw Cal, they will have to be prepared to defend the post.
If the Spartans beat Cal, the projected bracket has them facing the winner of Notre Dame and Mercer. Notre Dame is the top seed in the region and the defending champions, having beaten Mississippi State last year in the final. They have steamrolled their opposition, going 29-3 and winning the ACC regular-season title, no small feat given the other quality programs like Louisville, NC State and Miami. The odds of winning against a powerhouse program like this are low.
For the Spartans, the odds of making it out of the first weekend in this projected bracket are slim. Anything more than one win would be a miracle and a huge success for the team.