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MSU women's basketball awaits NCAA tourney position

March 16, 2014

At 7 p.m. on ESPN, the No. 20 women’s basketball team (22-9 overall, 13-3 Big Ten)  will find out where they will be seeded in the NCAA Tournament.

The Spartans currently are projected as a No. 5 seed to play No. 12 seed Florida in College Park, Md. on ESPN.com’s women’s basketball  NCAA Tournament Bracketology. 

Rounding out the projected Big Ten contingent is tournament champion Nebraska, projected as a No. 3 seed, Penn State as a No. 4 seed and potential No. 5 seeds Purdue and Iowa. Minnesota is on the bubble, according to ESPN expert Charlie Creme’s projection.

After falling to Nebraska 86-58 in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, head coach Suzy Merchant and players seemed to be on the same page - getting back to work. 

"This team does really well when we work up to a game,” senior forward Annalise Pickrel said after the Big Ten Tournament. “I think we’ll have a couple hard practices this week. And I hope we do. I think we just gotta get our tough grit back and our toughness and our positive mindset in the NCAA (Tournament).”

It was yet another collapse for the Spartans, who couldn’t stop a vicious Nebraska offense nor find a way to get their own shots to fall.

Merchant decided not to call a timeout as the Huskers built a 23-point lead at halftime, a decision that might have cost MSU a chance to regather themselves before the damage grew to be insurmountable.

“They need to fight through some things and I think that was one of those situations where I wanted to see what kind of grit we had a little bit and see if we could pull ourselves up,” Merchant said. “We had media timeout after media timeout. How many timeouts do you need?”

A No. 5 seed potentially could be a tough draw for the Spartans, who could play bracket host Maryland in the second round.

Merchant has discussed the huge advantage hosting gives a team in the tournament, pointing out that when MSU hosted in 2009 as a No. 9 seed, it went to a Sweet 16.

“I think there’s a distinct advantage to hosting those first couple rounds, and it has been and that’s obvious in women’s basketball,” Merchant said earlier this season. “At the end of the day, you can’t change that right now.”

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