Michigan back in NCAAs after 11-year absence

By Jeff Latzke

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, March 17 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale shouts to her team during a practice in Norman, Okla., Saturday, March 17, 2012. Oklahoma plays Michigan in an NCAA tournament first-round women's college basketball game on Sunday.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. — Kevin Borseth didn't know what to say. His team gathered at his house two years in a row to watch the NCAA women's tournament selection show, eagerly waiting for Michigan's name to pop up on the bracket.

It never happened.

When it came time for the 64-team field to be announced this year, he chose a different location — not only to take advantage of a new player development center but to avoid any bad luck from the usual arrangement.

Finally, the Wolverines (20-11) broke an 11-year NCAA drought by squeaking in as one of the last three teams picked. Michigan holds the lowest seed for an at-large team, along with fellow No. 11 seeds Kansas and Gonzaga.

"It makes it even sweeter just that we were so close the past couple seasons and we weren't able to get in," senior Courtney Boylan said. "We're just extremely excited to play."

Beyond putting them in the bracket, the tournament committee didn't do the Wolverines any favors with their draw. They'll face a road game against tournament regular Oklahoma (20-12) in Sunday night's opening round.

The subregional also features third-seeded St. John's (22-9) against Missouri Valley champion Creighton (20-12).

"It's an extremely, extremely tough challenge that we're faced with. They're constantly in the Final Four," Boylan said. "I've seen Oklahoma on TV a lot. Obviously, we're in a different situation. We haven't been here in 11 years. ... To be able to be a part of the NCAA tournament, I think that's something that we've been yearning for for a while now."

For Borseth, starting out on the road is nothing new. While leading Green Bay to the NCAA tournament seven times, he had to play on an opponent's home court for five games — at Connecticut, Texas, UCLA, Old Dominion and Maryland — and lost all five.

The Sooners are 7-1 all-time on their home court in the NCAA tournament and 9-1 in the state of Oklahoma. All of the wins have come as the team with the better seed; the loss was as a No. 10 seed in 2003.

"You are more comfortable where you've been and played a lot. The NCAAs are kind of an eye-opening experience for those who haven't experienced it yet, so it's nice to be able to come home," said Whitney Hand, Oklahoma's top rebounder and second-leading scorer.

"With that being said, we lost our last regular-season game at home. We're capable of losing at home. I don't feel like it's a guaranteed win at all."

The Sooners lost to Kansas in their previous home game.

When Michigan last appeared in the tournament in 2001, Oklahoma was making its second of 13 consecutive NCAA appearances.

"I love the fact that there's not a kid on our team that has to know what it feels like to not make it. I remember," said Sherri Coale, in her 16th season as the Sooners' coach. "Once you go and experience it ... you won't settle for anything less.

"I love the fact that this is all they know and yet at the same time our goal has never been to get here. Our goal has been to win here."

Oklahoma made it to the Final Four in 2009 and 2010, then needed a second-round upset a year ago to reach the round of 16 as a No. 6 seed.

Awaiting the winner of the Sooners' game against Michigan will be either St. John's, which snapped Connecticut's 99-game home winning streak earlier this season, or surprising Creighton.

The Bluejays finished fourth in the Missouri Valley but swept through the conference tournament by holding three straight opponents to 47 points or fewer.

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