We knew the University of Northern Colorado women's basketball team would be dancing in March. Now we know where, and with whom.
On Monday, it was announced 10-seed UNC would play the University of Michigan -- a seven seed -- in round one of the 2018 NCAA Women's National Championship Tournament in Waco, Texas. The Bears will tip off with the Wolverines Friday, March 16.
"There are a lot of good basketball schools in Colorado, so for us to be the only team in the NCAA Tournament is really cool to us," redshirt junior Savannah Smith said. "Especially me, being from Colorado, I think that is pretty cool."
The trip marks the first National Championship Tournament appearance for the Lady Bears in program history, an invite they earned by winning the Big Sky Tournament last weekend against Idaho, 91-69. Northern Colorado is hitting the tournament with a lot of momentum, as they haven't lost a game since mid-January.
"Thirteen games in a row, I think it is," head coach Kamie Ethridge said. "I feel we are kind of like a race horse. I want them to jog it out, but by the time we get going, we play full speed. [The girls] are just in a great spot, wanting to compete, wanting to go, and a credit to our team -- play our best."
The Bears currently hold a 26-6 record on the season, and are 3-1 against their opponents who also made the tournament.
"I think our preseason really gave us a good idea of playing some of those big teams," Smith said.
"I wanted us to be confident," Ethridge added. "Our schedule all year long has given us a great track record to show we can compete with different types of teams. Clearly we are playing high-level now. This is the time to be playing our best basketball, and I think we are."
According to the University of Northern Colorado, the game against Michigan will mark just the fourth time the women's basketball team has played a team from the Big Ten Conference. That being said, don't expect anyone to be intimidated.
"It's always good for us to play with a chip on our shoulder," Ethridge said. "We don't think too highly of ourselves, but we know it's not the name on your chest. You go compete, so we think the best team is going to win. We like our chance, we like our team, we like who we are, we like how we play, we are not afraid to go play Michigan and see how we do in the NCAA Tournament."
"We do feel like underdogs," Smith added. "Sometimes that's a good thing, because it can show what we can do."
Hundreds of fans packed Cables Pub & Grill in Greeley with the team on Monday to watch the selection show. After the Bears' game was announced, there was plenty of chatter of making the road trip down to Texas to watch the historic game.
"We are a small community here in Greeley, [and] the fans have gotten behind us," Ethridge said. "This will bode well for our future."
Tip-off between the University of Northern Colorado and Michigan is set for 3 p.m. MST, and the game will air on ESPN2.