Michigan women in need of seeding damage control

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Michigan women’s basketball team knows the harm a late-season slump can do. A year ago, the Wolverines lost four of five games down the stretch — and it cost them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Barring a total collapse this season, Michigan should be safely in this year, but it has some seeding damage control to do after dropping two of its last three games — the losses to two teams below the Wolverines in the Big Ten standings, Purdue (in overtime) and Rutgers.

No. 21 Michigan (20-6, 9-4 Big Ten) plays at Michigan State at noon Sunday (ESPN2/1050), coming off a dominating win over Northwestern.

That win eased the stress of the two losses. Michigan blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in losing to Purdue, then fell way behind early against Rutgers and couldn’t quite recover.

Against Northwestern, no surprise, it was senior guard Katelynn Flaherty leading the way with a season-high 36 points. It was her third 30-point game of the season, and featured nine 3-pointers; she’s second all-time in 3-pointers in the Big Ten.

On Sunday, she faces a Michigan State team (14-11, 4-8) she torched for 26 points on 9-for-14 shooting in a 74-48 rout of the short-handed Spartans at Crisler Center on Jan. 23.

Michigan’s hopes of winning the program’s first Big Ten regular-season championship took a massive hit with the mini-slide. It is three back of Big Ten leader Maryland in the loss column, and only has three games left before the Big Ten tournament. It gets Maryland in its finale Feb. 22, but that likely won’t be enough.

So, instead, these next three games — the Wolverines get no-slouch Minnesota in between Michigan State and Maryland — will be big for seeding, for the Big Ten tournament (which Michigan also will try to win for the first time in program history) and the NCAA Tournament. Current ESPN bracketology has the Wolverines slipping to a six seed. They need to be a top-four seed to host opening-round games.

Wayne State rescheduled

Because of weather, Wayne State’s men’s and women’s games have been pushed to Sunday from Friday. The women will play Purdue Northwest at 1 p.m. Sunday, followed by the men’s game at 3 p.m.