A waiting game: Guevara, players endure rollercoaster during NCAA tournament pairings
Anticipation was in the air at O’Kelly’s Sports Bar and Grill Monday night as the women’s basketball team awaited to hear its name called.
The team and fans alike waited for about 45 minutes for the graphic on ESPN to flip around and show the iconic ‘Flying C’ and the script Central Michigan (21-11).
As each bracket went by without a mention of CMU, the anxiety grew.
“You get kind of antsy about it,” said senior guard Brandie Baker. “You’re sitting there waiting and you still don’t see your name. It’s like, are we really in the NCAA tournament, or was this a joke?”
The Bridgeport and Spokane brackets were announced first with some familiar names announced, like No. 8 Michigan and No. 11 Green Bay (the Phoenix split with the Chippewas this season), No. 9 St. Joesph’s, who CMU beat, and No. 5 Michigan State … but no CMU.
Then came the much-anticipated Norfolk bracket, which ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Cream had the team sitting with a No. 12 seed, playing Colorado in Boulder.
It was time for the No. 12 vs No. 5 matchup to be announced, with the Buffaloes at the No. 5 in Boulder, but the No. 12 seed was Kansas, resulting in a collective gasp through the bar as it became unclear on where the team was heading.
Maybe the team dropped to the No. 13 seed? Nope, that was South Dakota State.
Eleven, 12, 13, 14, 15 all came up and without a sight of the Chippewas, making one thing clear.
They’ll be playing in the Oklahoma City region, the same bracket as the No. 1 overall seed Baylor University.
“I’ve been through this before,” said head coach Sue Guevara. “You wait and you wait and you see all the other sites, and everyone is thinking, well, we’re not going to Colorado, where are we going to go? What are we going to do?”
So, ESPN announces the Bears would be playing Prairie View A&M, drawing a sigh of relief from the fans who worried that their team might have dropped.
By now, fans were expecting to go to Louisville to play the Cardinals in the No. 5 vs No. 12 matchup, but the No. 12 seed went to Middle Tennessee State, creating another shockwave through the bar.
“I’m thinking, hey this is cool,” Guevara said. “I’m thinking, hey this is going to either be Columbus or Louisville.”
The uncertainty and anticipation filled the bar when even the No. 13 seed didn’t go to CMU, which would have paired it with a rematch against Purdue.
Finally, the bar was able to exhale as the fans and team erupted when they finally saw Central Michigan, the No. 11 seed against the No. 6 seeded Oklahoma in Columbus, Ohio.
“Perfect,” Guevara said. “It’s a great place for us to go.”
The Chippewas will face the Sooners at 11:10 a.m. Saturday in Columbus, joining No. 3 UCLA and No. 14 Stetson as the four vying for a spot in the Sweet 16.
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