COLUMBUS, Ohio – Members of the media that included the Associated Press and ESPN were introduced Friday afternoon to a Central Michigan team that is playing the underdog role with poise and confidence, communicating to the media what many back in Mount Pleasant and around the Mid-American Conference already know – the Chippewas belong here.
"It just feels good making history and enjoying the moment," said sophomore forward Crystal Bradford. "We don't want to jump the gun and get too excited though. We want to stay composed and stick to the script.
"Coming in as underdogs we are just really hungry and excited to win. There is not really a pressure because we all have each other's back."
Judging by the non-conference success throughout one of the toughest schedules in the country, that now includes eight postseason teams, the Chippewas shouldn't feel too much pressure.
"We've played a neutral game like this versus Texas. We've gone to Purdue. We've hosted Notre Dame. We are prepared. This is just another Notre Dame in a different color uniform on a neutral court," head coach Sue Guevara said.
Following the press conference in French Fieldhouse with Guevara, Brandie Baker, and Bradford, the Chippewas conducted a 90-minute practice in historic St. John Arena, where the first and second-round games will take place.
Members of the media in attendance at practice were surprised by the 11th seed's speed and athleticism and suspect Saturday's game against Oklahoma could turn into a high-scoring track meet.
Speaking with the media following practice, Coach Guevara reminisced about her year in Columbus and St. John Arena, where the Buckeyes won the 1984-85 Big Ten title with Guevara as graduate assistant.
"This is a great arena with the fans right on top of you," Guevara said. "The fans here love them some good basketball. And when the big dog isn't in the fight they love to root for the underdog."
With seeding and size going against them, one thing that is on the Chippewas' side is the crowd. Not only does Central Michigan have two student busses coming Saturday, along with its band and cheer squads, but Columbus is close enough to home that the crowd is expected to weigh heavily in the Chippewas' favor. And never one to turn down new fans, Coach Guevara made a plea to the Columbus community to garner even more support.
"I'm hoping we can get the fans (in Columbus) to come out and root for an alum who just happens to be in maroon and gold."
One person who won't be surprised if the Chippewas pull off an upset Saturday is none other than President Obama, who picked CMU to win the first-round matchup in his bracket.
Said Bradford when she heard that news – "I don't want to be the one to mess up his bracket!"