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Spartans women’s NCAA vision comes to fruition

Michael Epps
Special to The Detroit News

Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant had her team watch the selection show together last year and see their team not make the NCAA Tournament.

A chip on their shoulder? That’s an understatement.

“I was on the team last year, and I know how disappointing it was to watch a selection show and know that we weren’t going to come up,” junior guard Tori Jankoska said. “Coach Merchant told us that this wasn’t to punish us, but to show us where we should be and we need to see ourselves next year.”

This season the Spartans saw themselves as the No. 4 seed in the Bridgeport Region and will square off against Belmont (24-8) in a Friday afternoon matchup in Starkville, Miss. With a win, they would play on Sunday against the winner of the Mississippi State-Chattanooga game.

The likely Sweet 16 opponent would a daunting one: the defending champion Connecticut Huskies. UConn, who have won the past three championships, have earned the No. 1 overall seed and the right to play in their home state for the entire regional round.

When asked about the potential matchup with the powerhouse of women’s college basketball, forward Ariel Powers did not shy away from the possibility.

“I was excited. I was like, ‘Let’s go.’ This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Powers, a junior from Detroit, said when the brackets were announced. “I welcome them with open arms.”

Powers has been racking up the accolades and school records as the season has progressed. The Wooden Award finalist has been named to the All-Big Ten first team for the third straight year, the first Spartan to do so. Powers is also five points from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer.

The Spartans are coming off a loss in the Big Ten tournament championship last weekend against Maryland, which was announced as a No. 2 seed in tonight’s tournament selection show.

Michigan State vs. Belmont

Tip-off: Noon Friday, Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Mississippi

Records: Michigan State 24-8, Belmont 24-8

Tickets: Through Mississippi State’s ticket office online at www.hailstate.com/tickets or by calling 1 (888) GO-DAWGS