This weekend’s NCAA tournament matchup between No. 8-seeded Central Michigan (25-7) and No. 9-seeded Michigan State (20-11) in South Bend, Indiana is bigger than some think, in more ways than one.
The Spartans are dancing again after missing the NCAA tournament last season. The team played in the NIT, falling to South Dakota in the third round.
“It’s a different type of intensity, going from the NIT last year to the NCAA tournament now,” said Shay Colley. “Last year it was a little disappointing to make the NIT, but we’re happy to be here. Where we are doesn’t matter, what seed we are or who we play.”
MSU head coach Suzy Merchant played at CMU, spending four years as a point guard from 1987-1991, leaving the university as its all-time assists leader.
“Obviously Presley Hudson’s a great player for them (CMU), they really space the floor well, they attack the boards, they do what they do and they know who they are,” said Merchant this past Monday.
Hudson recently passed Merchant on that all-time career assist list to take the top spot.
“She can shoot from anywhere,” said Shay Colley following the team’s open practice this past week.
Hudson also holds the career-scoring record along with the most points scored in a single game wearing a Chippewas uniform. Her explosive 43-point performance in 2017 against Ball State set that mark.
Hudson and teammate Reyna Frost were some of the front runners for MAC Player of the Year, with Frost taking the award this past month.
A familiar face to Spartan fans also will be making an appearance on the sideline. CMU head coach Sue Guevara will lead her team into its second consecutive NCAA tourney appearance.
The former Spartan assistant spent 10 seasons from 1986-1996 on staff under head coach Karen Langeland at MSU. The team went 149-131 during her time in East Lansing.
“I think it’s awesome, two Michigan schools playing each other in the NCAA tournament,” said Jenna Allen. “That is so great for this state and these two great schools. They are a great program and we’re just gonna come in and stick to our gameplan.”
The last time Allen played in the NCAA tournament, her team fell 73-61 to Arizona State in 2017. The Spartans were coincidentally a No. 9 seed, with Allen scoring two points on 1-of-4 shooting in that game.
“I’m really excited to get this last go-round with my sisters,” said Allen. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”
If the Spartans defeat Central Michigan, they will likely face off with No. 1 seeded Notre Dame on its home floor the following Monday.
The game between MSU and CMU will tip off at 1 p.m. on ESPN2, this Saturday, Mar. 23.