'We're going to the NCAA Tournament to compete': Guevara, Chippewas look past Buffalo loss to NCAA Tournament

Head coach Sue Guevara looks into the crowd on March 13 in Quicken Loans Arena.

Leaving Quicken Loans Arena following the Central Michigan women's basketball team's 82-77 loss in the semifinals against Buffalo, the taste in Sue Guevara's mouth wasn't pleasant.

But then again, for Guevara, every loss leaves the same flavor — sour.

However, in March, it's a quick turnaround. Guevara and the Chippewas realize there is more at stake and this season could be far from over.

When asked about how her team felt getting back to the NCAA Tournament following a shorter trip to Cleveland than she would've liked, Guevara answered with a stern and locked-in tone.

"We're not going into the NCAA (Tournament) disappointed, we're going in to compete," she said.

For the Chippewas (25-7, 15-3 Mid-American Conference), this is not a new territory. They've been there and done this under Guevara. Now, for the first time since 1983-84, CMU has done it in back-to-back seasons.

This team was well-known coming into the 2018-19 campaign by not just the Mid-American Conference, but the nation. In some polls CMU was creeping toward the AP Top 25 following a trip to the 2017-18 NCAA Sweet 16.

Immediately after the loss to the Bulls, which crushed a preseason goal of winning a MAC Tournament title, Guevara admitted there was some disappointment. That's expected from a team who was favored to win it as the top-seed.

However, the minute the team got on the bus the following morning to leave Cleveland, Ohio, Guevara reminded them of what CMU did from November to March.

"Our trophy was on the bus from the (regular) season (championship) and I pulled it out and said, 'Look you guys, this is what we did,'" Guevara said waving her hands in the air as if she were holding it. "'Maybe the (MAC) tournament didn't turn out how we wanted it, but we did win the season. So keep your heads up, you've got 24 hours to let it go and then it's over.'"

Two players Guevara needs to do just that are seniors Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson.

For both of them, this is their last go-around at the college basketball level. If they lose in South Bend to No. 9 Michigan State (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten) at 1 p.m. on March 23, their historic Chippewa tenures will end.

Frost, the MAC Player of the Year, doesn't even want to think about it and is using it as motivation to keep winning.

"It'll be special to play our senior year in this NCAA Tournament," Frost said. "Presley, Jaeda (Robinson) and myself will want to leave an impact when we come out so it will be cool to see what we can do."

Coming off of the loss, Frost, Hudson and Guevara all agreed they had no doubt they would make the NCAA Tournament. In fact, with ESPN leaking the bracket earlier than it was scheduled for, Guevara said it took some of the excitement of waiting to see who they would play away.

CMU had a nonconference schedule which included No. 11 Quinnipiac, No. 4 Miami and No. 1 Louisville. Buffalo also made the Big Dance as a No. 10-seed. Frost and Guevara both agreed that the strength of schedule helped them prepare for this point while boosting CMU's RPI. 

For the Chippewas, this is an expectation they hold for the program and want to for every season following it. 

It's been a goal of Hudson's since she arrived at CMU. Now, she wants to take it even further by competing in March as deep as possible.

"It's amazing we've been able to (make the NCAA Tournament back-to-back seasons) and I've had great coaches and teammates to help us get there," Hudson said. "It's a new season and it's time to get prepared and ready to go tomorrow at practice.

"We've been to (Notre Dame) before and know just how loud it gets in there and that should help us be ready."