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Posted on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 9:25 a.m.

Upset-minded Michigan women's basketball team inspired by softball coach Carol Hutchins

By Pete Cunningham


Michigan senior guard Jenny Ryan, right, has used the inspiring words of Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins to motivate the Wolverines against No. 1 seed Stanford.

Courtney Sacco | file photo

On Sunday, Jenny Ryan helped the Michigan women’s basketball team win its first NCAA Tournament game since the senior captain was 11 years old.

The win was a long time coming, but didn’t take long for Ryan to move on from it and shift her focus to the tall task ahead of the Wolverines on Tuesday night. Michigan will face top-seeded Stanford (9:30 p.m., ESPN2) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Palo Alto, Calif.

To motivate her upset-minded team, Ryan called on inspiration from a former college basketball player from - of all schools - archrival Michigan State.

"I remember a while back coach made a speech and our softball coach, Coach Hutch (Carol Hutchins), talks about her whole thing which is the game doesn't know,” Ryan said at a press conference following Michigan’s 60-52 win over Villanova. “We're going to prepare for Stanford like we would any game and I think we have the confidence in each other to beat any team in this country.

“I think the game doesn't know.”

The source of Ryan’s inspiration is much less surprising considering Hutchins is a little more well known for her hall of fame softball coaching career at Michigan than her basketball playing days at Michigan State.

“The game doesn’t know,” is one of Hutchins’ favorite sayings. She said she borrowed it from former UCLA coach Sue Enquist - she of 11 national championships - and was thrilled to hear Ryan was paying it forward.

“I’m actually quite honored that (Ryan) would quote me,” Hutchins said. “I believe she wants to be a coach one day and she studies up.”

Hutchins said she’s been following the progress of Ryan and the Wolverines and that Ryan picked the perfect time to use her signature phrase.

“Don’t worry about Stanford’s history. They’re not playing any of that. They don’t have to beat Stanford’s history, they’re just trying to win the game, one possession at a time,” Hutchins said. “The game doesn’t know if you’re ranked or unranked…The game doesn’t know, otherwise we’d never play any of them.”

If the game did know, it would know that No. 1 seeds are 72-3 in the Round of 32 since the expansion of the women’s tournament field to 64 teams in 1994.

It would know that Stanford (32-2) has won 18 straight games with an average margin of victory of 20.6 points.

The game would know Stanford is the only team since March 2011 to beat Brittney Griner and the defending national champion Baylor Bears.

If the game knew, it might not give Michigan (22-10) much of a chance.

The players and Michigan’s first-year coach Kim Barnes Arico know what they’re up against, but also know they have a tremendous opportunity in front of them.


Michigan's Jenny Ryan, left, and Kate Thompson smile at each other at a news conference before practice for the second round of the women's NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, March 25, 2013 in Stanford, Calif. Michigan will play Stanford on Tuesday.

Associated Press

“I think you just gotta put yourself in a position to be there down the stretch because the higher seed starts to feel the pressure and they’re the ones that start to get tight,” Barnes Arico said last week. “Anything is possible if you get things to go your way, if you hang around for long enough, you never know what could happen.”

“Looking at our past and how we’ve handled really good teams, we’ve actually done really well, and upset a lot of teams in our careers as a senior class,” said Rachel Sheffer. “Anything can happen on any given day.”

After falling to Michigan on Sunday, Villanova coach Harry Perretta said he thinks Michigan’s style matches up well for an upset.

"I was telling Kim that whoever has a chance to beat Stanford, I think you have to make at least 10 (3-point baskets) in the game to have a chance to win because you're not going to beat them inside because their inside players are way too tough," Perretta said. "You have to try to play them opposite. Michigan has the style that has a chance to win. Any time when you play a team, opposite styles are usually better."

Michigan will turn to its plethora of scorers to try to pull the upset, but will likely need a big game from the outside from senior Kate Thompson to have a chance.

“I've been coaching a long time and this is the best shooter that I've been around,” Barnes Arico said at a press conference on Monday. “I told Kate, ‘You're the best shooter in America,’ and she laughed at me. And I would say, ‘No, Kate, I really believe that.’”

Thompson can reach several personal milestones on Tuesday. At 110 3-pointers made, she is two shy of the national lead and a Big Ten single season record. Two more 3s would also make Thompson just the second player in program history to reach 200 and make her the 24th Michigan player to ever score 1,000 career points.

The individual milestones are secondary to Thompson, to say the least.

"At the end of the day, basketball is a team sport. It's all about the team,” Thompson said on Monday. “If making 3s is what it's going to take, then I will do my best for the team,”

Even if the outside game is working for Michigan, there’s still the issue of defending Chiney Ogwumike in the post. Ogwumike is averaging 22.6 points and 12 rebounds on the year and had 29 points and eight rebounds in Stanford’s 72-56 opening round win over Tulsa.

“We know that it's going to be difficult, but like these kids said, the game doesn't know,” Barnes Arico said. “We're just excited about the opportunity.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Give 'em HAIL, ladies! Go Blue

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 6:57 p.m.

I don't see this as a particularly good matchup and it's a road game, but it's a great opportunity for all these seniors to make their mark. I'll be happy if they leave everything out there tonight and keep it within 20. A win would be a huge bonus.

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 9 p.m.

Playing on the road is a definite factor in the domination by women's No. 1 seeds. Unlike in men's basketball, the No. 1 seed don't just play near home, but at home.

Heidi Koester

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

I'll be rooting hard for U-M tonight! Have thoroughly enjoyed following this team and watching the current seniors really bring this program forward over the past four years. I don't know any of them personally, but just watching them on the court, they seem like great representatives for the university and college athletics in general. Tremendous effort, making the most of their potential, good team chemistry, enjoying themselves while playing to win. Stanford will be tough, but remember, the volleyball team upset the Cardinal in the NCAA's this past fall. So it can be done!


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Thw win Coach Hut Please edit.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

Don't be so sensitive, Pete. You know you don't turn in very clean copy, and that's a must in this business. It's a sign that people still think of as something resembling a newspaper that they expect proper editing. Take that away and you might as well be on Twitter.

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

Just received clarification on Jenny Ryan's quote. She did in fact say "Coach Hutch" and the error was in the transcription. That correction has been made. Now that that's out of the way, it's safe to get back to solving world hunger everyone.

Pete Cunningham

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

The "Thw" has been fixed. Thanks for pointing out the error. The "Coach Hut" is from a quote. I do not have audio of the press conference where this was said, just the transcript, and that is how it written in the transcript. I will inquire to see if this was a typo or if Jenny Ryan actually said "Coach Hut" as the transcript suggests.