The MSU women’s basketball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-consecutive postseason.
If MSU beats the Red Foxes, it’ll take on the winner of No. 4 seed Maryland and No. 13 seed Quinnipiac in the second round.
When the bracket was revealed on ESPN’s selection show Monday evening, it was met with cheers and applause as the Spartans were caught slightly off-guard with their seeding. MSU expected to be either a No. 7, 8 or 9 seed, which reflected the most recent ESPN.com projections.
“I felt good about the way we finished and how hard we fought,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “We’re going back to a place we were exactly one year ago, so we’re familiar with where we’re going.”
The Spartans lost their opening game in the tournament to Louisville last season in College Park. A possible game against Maryland on its home court looms if MSU and the Terrapins both win Saturday.
Senior forward Courtney Schiffauer said the familiarity of Maryland’s arena could be beneficial for MSU.
“Whatever little edge you can get in the NCAA Tournament, you’re going to take,” Schiffauer said.
Coaches and players began scouting Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Marist minutes after the matchup was announced. Merchant said she’s become very familiar with the Red Foxes’ program throughout the years, calling them, “NCAA slayers.”
“They are a very, very good team,” Merchant said. “Shoot a lot of threes. They have four seniors, two of them are redshirt seniors. They’re extremely well-coached and they play a style that’s very difficult to defend.”
MSU has earned a trip to the Big Dance for the fifth time in Merchant’s six years on the bench. She led the Spartans to the championship of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in the 2007-08 season, her first in East Lansing.
The deepest the Spartans have advanced under Merchant is the Sweet 16, once, in 2008-09.
“We know we’re capable of making a tournament run,” senior guard Jasmine Thomas said. “That needs to be our mindset as we go game to game.”