The Central Michigan Chippewas will play in a postseason game for the fourth consecutive season after receiving a bid to play in the 2014 Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). It will be their third appearance in the event in the last four years (2011, 2012), interrupted only by last season's trip to the NCAA Women's Tournament.
CMU will host IUPUI on Thursday, March 20th at a time to be determined. Should they win their first-round game in the 64-team tournament, they would face either Ball State or Northwestern. Yes, their second round WNIT game could be a third matchup with their nemesis, the Cardinals. The first two games the Chippewas played against BSU in 2014 both ended in overtime after large comebacks by CMU.
In the event that Central Michigan advances to the third round, they would play either Indiana State, Marquette, Indiana or Belmont. Is a third game with the Bowling Green Falcons possible? Yes, but not until the championship round. BGSU is on the opposite side of the bracket.
The Chippewas are 20-11 thus far in the 2013-2014 season. They were 4-8 in the non-conference portion of their schedule, which was among the most difficult in the country. They earned huge wins over Massachusetts (44 points), Xavier (26), and Prairie View A&M (24). However, their most notable win prior to MAC play was a 94-91 victory over Dayton that came on a buzzer-beater by Crystal Bradford. CMU's losses were to a veritable "who's who" of NCAA powers, including Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Notre Dame, Purdue and Dayton.
That brutal trip through November and December prepared CMU well for the rigors of conference play, and they won 16 of their first 17 games, often in dramatic, comeback fashion. They split their season series with Bowling Green and defeated Akron once and Ball State twice. However, they closed the regular season with a difficult loss to Eastern Michigan. Then, prior to the MAC Tournament, Crystal Bradford suffered a serious knee injury, and the Chippewas ultimately bowed out in their first tournament game, a semifinal loss to Akron.
It doesn't appear likely that Bradford will be able to play in the WNIT, so CMU will need to rely on others for offense and leadership. Fortunately, they aren't lacking in either category. Niki DiGuilio and Jessica Green both average over 30 minutes per game. DiGuilio scores an average of 13.5 points and has drilled 99 3-pointers this season. Green scores 11.8 per game and shoots 42 percent from the floor. In addition, Jas'Mine Bracey provides 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds on average, as well as a total of 23 blocks for the season. MAC Sixth Player of the Year Taylor Johnson will also likely see a heavier workload.
The Jaguars of IUPUI are 22-9 overall and finished 11-3 in the Summit League. Their non-conference schedule included 20-point losses to Purdue and East Carolina, as well as closer losses to Cleveland State (overtime), Indiana (6 points) and Northwestern (5). They also defeated Western Michigan by 15 in Kalamazoo. Their 11-3 record was good enough to earn the second seed in the Summit League tournament, but the Jaguars suffered a huge upset loss to 9-23 Denver in the semifinals.