Tuesday, June 25, 2024

MSU women's basketball prepares for University of North Carolina in first round of March Madness

March 21, 2024
<p>Senior guard Tory Ozment (1) passes the ball during a matchup against Iowa, held at the Breslin Center on Jan. 18, 2023. The Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes in overtime, 84-81.</p>

Senior guard Tory Ozment (1) passes the ball during a matchup against Iowa, held at the Breslin Center on Jan. 18, 2023. The Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes in overtime, 84-81.

Selection Sunday was a big day for the Michigan State women’s basketball team as they were selected as the No. 9 seed in the Albany 1 Region of the women's basketball 2024 NCAA Tournament, more commonly known as March Madness.

After missing the tournament for two straight years, the Spartans turned things around in head coach Robyn Fralick's first season with the team. Michigan State spent a lot of extra time during the preseason and throughout the regular season working on its craft, hoping that it would get them to the “final chapter,” as Fralick calls it. 

Now, the Spartans packed their bags and are headed out to Columbia, South Carolina in preparation to face off against No. 8 seed University of North Carolina.

Before Selection Sunday, coach Fralick mentioned not having watched a lot of films on the Tar Heels, but since then, the team has had a lot of time to study their opponent before heading into battle. 

One major difference that the coaching staff and players have begun to realize is that the two teams play an entirely different style of ball when it comes to pace and size. The Spartans have run a “small-ball” line-up that takes advantage of their speed. On the other hand, North Carolina has a roster full of size that doesn’t commit to one particular game speed. 

“(They’re) really big and don’t make a lot of mistakes, (so) you have to really find ways to get in there and beat them," Fralick said ahead of Michigan State's final practice before leaving for South Carolina.

Fralick has some experience with coaching in the NCAA Tournament as she coached at Ashland University, where the Eagles reached the women’s Division Two NCAA Tournament four separate times between 2012 and 2018. Fralick said one of the most important takeaways from her experience was the small margins for error. 

“The margin is really small because you’re playing the best teams that have been playing each other and so your team has to understand that the margin is small," Fralick said. "You have to find ways to win the small margins."

Only three players on the Spartan roster have been to the tournament before -- Julia Ayrault, Moira Joiner and Tory Ozment -- and two of them have only been once. Ozment went for the first time with the 2018-2019 squad who lost in the second round and all three went during the 2020-2021 season. 

“It’s kind of cool, kind of crazy, but it’s just an exciting time of the year," Joiner said before the team's final practice in East Lansing. "March is so fun and the teams that are in it are good teams and you just got to bring your A-game every day." 

The veteran guard is aware of the Spartans’ advantage on the speed side of the basketball and she also knows the Spartans can compete in the rebounds category as long as they do it the way they know how. 

“I think that our advantages are our speed and our transition offense," Joiner said. "If we box out and rebound like we know how to, I think we have a pretty good chance."

As three of the veteran players on the squad prepare to face off against the Tar Heels in what will ultimately be their final season, Fralick knows that the entire team is preparing for the final chapter of the season. 

“I always think of the season in different chapters," Fralick said. "There’s non-conference, there’s a conference, there’s the Big Ten Tournament and then there’s the postseason."

The beginning of the final chapter for Michigan State starts on Friday for the team's first March Madness game since 2021. Michigan State will face the University of North Carolina at 11:30 a.m. in Columbia, South Carolina. ESPN2 will air the game. 

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