Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - The Central Michigan women's basketball team will play LSU in a first-round NCAA Tournament game on Saturday (11 a.m.) at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
The Chippewas (28-4) are the 11th seed in the Spokane Regional, while LSU (19-9) is the sixth seed. Ohio State is seeded third and will take on 14th-seeded George Washington in Saturday's second game in Columbus. The winners will meet on Monday.
CMU learned its face, along with the other 63 teams in the tournament field, during Monday night's selection show on ESPN. The Chippewa players and coaches gathered at Hunter's Ale House in Mount Pleasant, and they were joined by some 200 boisterous supporters.
A huge cheer went up when CMU's pairing appeared on screen.
"It's the same thing like when we were at the (MAC) Tournament, all the people that were there, the community, the fans that were there," CMU coach Sue Guevara said. "Today I couldn't get a parking spot out at Hunter's, which is awesome.
"That just tells you how invested the community is in us, and how invested we are in the community. We've said this all along, as a program if we give back to the community, they're going to give back to us. Central Michigan, Mount Pleasant, we're together. It's awesome, it's a great place to be."
The Chippewas are in the NCAA field for the fourth time in program history. Their last trip came in 2013.
The Tigers finished 11-5 in the Southeast Conference and bowed to Texas A&M, 75-69, in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal game.
LSU, which is ranked 24th nationally by the Associated Press, is in the NCAA Tournament for the 26th time and for the seventh time in the last years. It has reached the Final Four five times, most recently in 2008.
LSU carries an RPI rating of 29, while CMU's RPI is 15. The Chippewas were ranked sixth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major 25 and was among others receiving votes in the AP poll.
Guevara said the Chippewas will take the same approach to playing in the tournament against an SEC team as they have all season.
"I know I'm a broken record, it's one game at a time, it's what we focus on," she said. "We see the strengths and weaknesses of that team: What do we do? What do we want to exploit? What do we want to take away? Like we have done with every single game. It didn't matter who we were playing, and we're going to approach it the exact same way.
"I only care about what we have to do to get ready to compete with LSU. I am not going to change my approach because of who we're playing. To me, that defeats everything that we've done all year long."
It's about five hours by car from Mount Pleasant to Columbus, and that bodes well for the Chippewas and their fans.
"I think we're going to have a lot of support," junior guard Presley Hudson said. "I think a lot of people will be coming down. I just know that we're going to fight, play hard every single minute of the game."
"We just know that we have to play our game," said junior Reyna Frost, who on Saturday was named the Most Valuable Player in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. "We have a week to prepare and we're all really excited and we're playing close to home and we know we're going to get some fans there. I know the community is really excited for us. Should be fun."
True, CMU has a better won-loss record and a better RPI than do the Tigers, but LSU is the sixth seed while the Chippewas are No. 11. CMU has played most of the season with a target on its back after being picked to win the conference regular-season and tournament titles.
"It is March Madness and we all know what happens in March Madness," Guevara said. "There are always upsets -- always. All I know is we can only control what we can control, and we have done it for 32 games and I don't expect that to change for this 33rd game.
"I don't really care how anybody else looks at it; I know how we have to look at it."