TRAVERSE CITY -- Suzy Merchant expects her Michigan State Spartans to be at least a No. 5 seed when the NCAA women's basketball tournament pairings are announced tonight.
The Spartans are 22-9.
"I feel like five would be fair," said Merchant, the former Traverse City Central standout, who was back home on a recruiting trip Thursday night to watch Central Lake star Jasmine Hines. "Anything less than a five we would probably be disappointed with. We have a 16 RPI. We have five top 25 wins, two over top 10 teams, and a one-point loss to another top 10 team.
"We feel really good about where we're at. We have a strong resume. We really feel we should be a four or five. That's what I'm thinking. But you don't know with committees. And the difference between the men's game and the women's game are the sites of host schools (in the women's tournament). They have to put those schools at those host sites so that could affect your seeding based on the situation."
A year ago, Michigan State, a No. 8 seed, was a host site in its region, and the Spartans took advantage of it by beating top-seeded Duke and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
After a mid-season lull this year, Michigan State finished strong this season, placing second to Ohio State in the Big Ten.
"We did the same thing the men's team did," Merchant said. "They had a three-game skid. We had a three-game skid. But we won 11 of our last 12. I felt like we really played and clicked as a team. I feel our depth came into play. We're playing nine deep. We could probably go 10, but that's a hard to thing to do."
Merchant said a key in the turnaround was the play of freshman guard Jasmine Thomas.
"Her speed, her quickness, her athleticism and her ability to start our transition really fueled us," Merchant said.
Michigan State lost to Iowa in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
"We were disappointed in the Iowa situation," Merchant said. "With a minute to go it was a tie game. They were averaging 80 points a game and we held them in the 50s. It was our kind of game. But Allyssa (DeHaan) was hurt and we didn't have that secondary and third scorer that we've had. We struggled to put it in the basket. And they were a hot team, too. It could have gone either way.
"But I think our kids have a little bit more motivation in practice right now. We have that survive and advance mentality."