Women's basketball views NCAA Tournament matchup against MSU as any other opponent
Central Michigan women's basketball didn't care about what team it would be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
All that mattered was getting in.
For the entire season, the focus for coach Sue Guevara's group has focused on taking it "one game at a time."
The Chippewas (25-7, 15-3 Mid-American Conference) were selected to the Chicago Region as the No. 8 seed to take on No. 9 Michigan State (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten) at 1 p.m. on March 23 in South Bend, Indiana.
Seniors Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson both attended in-state high schools and could have received looks from the Spartans.
Whether that ever happened or not, the mentality remained the same for CMU's point guard heading into this matchup with an in-state foe from just over 67 miles down US-127 North.
"It's not really a factor," Hudson said. "We're both glad we came to CMU and blessed that we had the opportunity to come here.
"We wouldn't want to be anywhere else besides CMU."
The Spartans and Chippewas met for the first time in 1970 and have played 42 times since, with MSU taking 29 of those matchups. For this season, MSU and CMU both defeated Bowling Green, Virginia and Oakland.
Head coach Sue Guevara has plenty of ties with the Big Ten school from East Lansing. From 1986-96, Guevara was an assistant under Karen Langeland at MSU before getting the head coaching job down the road at Michigan (1996-2003).
The memory of Guevara coaching at MSU is distant to her now but she still tells people to this day she grew up with the Spartans.
"I spent 10 years there and I absolutely loved it there," Guevara said. "I was with really good people. But again, that was a long time ago and I'm just happy to be here at Central (Michigan). We're just happy to be playing a really, really good basketball team."
For the Chippewas, it won't be the first time they've played a team of the Spartans caliber in the Big Dance. In the nonconference portion of CMU's 2018-19 campaign, it played games against No. 11 Quinnipiac, No. 4 Miami and No. 1 Louisville.
Senior forward and MAC Player of the Year Reyna Frost said scheduling opponents like those teams benefits the underclassmen more than anyone else.
"(The underclassmen) know they can play against those players who play in big games all of the time," Frost said. "Have to credit our coaches for getting them ready for that."
Another MAC school to make the NCAA Tournament was No. 10 Buffalo (23-9, 12-6 MAC) after winning the MAC Tournament and receiving the conference champion automatic bid. CMU went 2-1 against the Bulls this season, dropping the final matchup by a final score of 82-77 in the MAC Tournament semifinals.
Ohio (27-5, 14-4 MAC), however, managed a better overall record than the Chippewas but did not get selected to the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats won the MAC East and fell to Buffalo 77-61 in the league tournament title game.
Guevara said she thinks it is a "shame" Ohio was left out of the Big Dance.
"Ohio has a really good RPI and strength of schedule and did what they were suppose to do," Guevara said shrugging her shoulders with a puzzled facial expression. "They won the (MAC) East and were the second seed. I really felt this was the year we would get three teams in."
Guevara said wins in the tournament can only help the MAC gain more respect from the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
Right now, all she is worried about is MSU.
As the press conference following the selection show came to a close, Guevara was asked why the Spartans and Chippewas don't face regularly.
"One of the reasons is they do their scheduling so many years out and it's just never worked out where we've been able to play each other," Guevara said.
A reporter then asked, "Is it because they are afraid of you?"
Guevara replied, "I don't think that's why."
The two teams will meet for the first time since Guevara has been at CMU. The stakes couldn't be higher — win or go home.