MARQUETTE - For Northern Michigan University head women's basketball coach Troy Mattson, it didn't matter if he got the No. 7 seed in the GLIAC tournament or No. 8 seed.
Either way, his Wildcats would have to go through Ferris State and Ashland to win the conference crown.
"They are both very good and similar in size and athleticism," Mattson said. "We've played good minutes against both of them. We're not afraid to play both of them."
Northern Michigan University’s Hillary Bowling (21) gets caught between Northwood’s Rachel Church (30) left, and Gabrielle Rivette (23) right, at the Berry Events Center on Thursday. The Wildcats topped Northwood on Thursday and Saginaw Valley State on Saturday to set up Wednesday’s GLIAC quarterfinal showdown at top-seeded Ashland. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
An obscure tiebreaking system left the Wildcats as the No. 8 seed in the GLIAC tournament, despite having beat the team they tied with - No. 7 Findlay - in the lone head to head meeting in Marquette.
The Wildcats, who took third in the North Division, and the Oilers, who took fifth in the South, both finished at 9-10 via league play, but Findlay's wins were valued higher than Northerns due to a point system use by the GLIAC to break ties between non-division rivals.
The point system is based on wins and losses coming at home and one the road and based on the opponent's winning percentage. Losses range in value from 0-3 points while a win is valued between 3-7 points.
For example, a loss to a team on the road with a winning percentage of .751 or higher is the same value as a win over a team at home with a winning percentage of .250 and under.
Findlay finished with 61 league points, so it gets the No. 7 seed and plays at Ferris State on Wednesday, while Northern gets the No. 8 seed and makes the nearly 600-mile bus trip to Ashland.
"If we were going to do down and play one of them, we'd play the other one the next night anyways," Mattson said. "It doesn't really matter.
"We have to go down prepared, do what we've been doing and hopefully the ball is going in the basket."
Ashland, at 25-1 overall, has won 25-straight games since opening the season with a loss at home to Minnesota State-Mankato and finished 19-0 during the regular season in the GLIAC.
The Eagles beat the Wildcats in the only meeting between the two schools on Feb. 18 in Ohio, 85-55, but the Wildcats are confident after closing the season winning five of their last seven games.
"We're confident in what we can do and know we can beat anyone," NMU senior Hillary Bowling said.
"We just have to come in focused and ready to play. We can't take a minute off. We have to play the full 40. We can't take a possession off, especially on defense."
Mattson said the Wildcats will need to step their defense up a notch and improve on their rebounding.
The biggest key, however, will be making shots to keep up with Ashland.
The Eagles lead the GLIAC in scoring, margin of victory, free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
"The biggest thing is, are we going to be able to make them miss," Mattson said. "Can we make them miss? They are such a great shooting team. We really have to play tougher D. We're going to have to make shots. If we can't make shots on the road, we're not going to win."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.