Katie Meier, nine days into her Will-We-Or-Won’t-We-Make-The-NCAA-Tournament vigil, looked in the mirror Monday morning and did not like what she saw.
“I haven’t really been very enjoyable to be around; and I looked in the mirror and actually said out loud, ‘Oh my God, look at you,’” Meier said Monday night, in a far better mood after learning her University of Miami women’s basketball team was, indeed, invited to the tournament as an 11th seed. They Hurricanes play the sixth-seeded Washington Huskies on Friday at noon in Iowa City, Iowa.
“You’re riding this helpless wave of events happening across the country that you can’t do anything about,” Meier explained. “I’m a doer, a woman of action. I was handcuffed, and I had to just sit there. … That’s the worst way to punish me, something so important and not let me have any impact. I’d much rather have been playing than having our fate in someone else’s hands.”
She spent nine seemingly endless days and nights crunching numbers, dissecting RPIs, prying her eyelids open to watch late-night tournament games from the West Coast.
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“About 15 things had to go our way,” Meier said.
Apparently, they did. It is the fourth time in the past five years that the Canes made the NCAA Tournament. They also played in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Like the UM men’s team, the women were on the bubble with some holes in their résumé, but a huge January win over a top-5 powerhouse –— in the women’s case, Notre Dame — helped their cause. The Miami women sputtered at the end of the regular season with four consecutive losses — two by one point, one by three and a 14-point loss to No. 9 Florida State.
They played well in an ACC tournament win over Virginia, held their own in their second meeting with Notre Dame, and the selection committee took note.
Unlike the men, who had to settle for the NIT, the women wound up on the right side of the bubble, among the four final teams in the bracket, along with LSU, Oklahoma State and Tulane.
“It was not a fun stretch at all, but everything did go our way,” Meier said.
When the Hurricanes saw their team pop up on the TV screen, they went bonkers.
“The room exploded,” Meier said. “They were thrilled, so excited. It was one of purest moments of joy that I’ve had since I’ve been here. They were feeling the stress, too. They just weren’t letting me know.”
The team leaves for Iowa City on Tuesday and will start preparing for the Huskies (23-9, 11-7 Pac-12). Washington is a high-scoring team, 74.9 points per game, and its 78.2 percent free-throw shooting ranks No. 2 in the nation. They are led by Kelsey Plum, the nation’s seventh-leading scorer, who averages 22.8 points per game.
As it happens, Meier is extremely familiar with Plum because she coached Plum on the U.S. Under-19 team that won the world championship in Lithuania. Meier tried to recruit Plum out of high school, to no avail.
“I thought she was awesome, and she has been phenomenal for them,” Meier said.
Over Christmas break, Plum was in Miami vacationing with her family, and she called Meier to say hello and ask if she could use the UM gym to do some shooting. Meier happily opened the gym.
Asked if it might give UM an advantage that she knows Plum’s game so well, Meier said: “Advantage? I’m not sure. She’s the type of kid that will come in with extra swag because I’m on the other bench.”