While bettors in Michigan have taken advantage of sports betting on the NCAA men’s tournament, sportsbooks in the state are offering odds on the women’s tournament as well.
A day after the Michigan men earned a Sweet 16 berth, the women’s team will look to do the same today against Tennessee at 5 p.m. On DraftKings, the Wolverines are currently a 6.5-point underdog to the Volunteers, with a +215 moneyline.
This women’s tournament is the first one Michigan bettors can wager on. The state also launched its mobile sports betting and online casino platforms on Jan. 22, allowing players to place bets across the state.
The Michigan women have had one of the best seasons in program history. The Wolverines got off to a 10-0 start and reached an all-time best No. 11 national ranking in January. Michigan’s No. 6 seed in the tournament is also the highest in team history.
Naz Hillmon is the player to watch. On Jan. 21, she became the first man or woman in Michigan basketball to score 50 points in a game when she reached that mark against Ohio State. She was eventually named the Big Ten Player of the Year after averaging 25.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Hillmon was also named to the AP All-American Second Team. Both the All-American honor and Big Ten award made her the first player in program history to earn those distinctions.
Similar to the men’s team, the women have had to deal COVID pauses this season. The program has undergone 10 postponements over a 10-week span.
“There were a lot of firsts this season,” Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico said during a Zoom conference with reporters on Monday. “Whether that was the 10-0 start, or whether that was Naz (Hillmon’s) 50 points, or the highest ranking in program history, built-in with all that were the number of pauses and the amount of time missed and the little bumps of the road we went through as a program as well.
“Just proud of our maturity and our experience through those times but really feel like we have an opportunity to go to places where we’ve never been as a team and that would include being successful (Tuesday). That would be the next step in that direction for sure.”
A win over Tennessee would mark another first: Michigan’s first trip to the Sweet 16.
The Wolverines defeated Florida Gulf Coast 87-66 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday to set up Tuesday’s matchup with Tennessee.
Michigan facing established Volunteers
The late Pat Summitt turned Tennessee into one of the top women’s basketball programs in the country. Tennessee has won eight national titles, with the last coming in 2008.
This Volunteers group presents a size challenge for the Wolverines. Just two players on Tennessee’s roster are under 6-feet, while the frontcourt boasts two players at 6-foot-5. Tennessee ranks fifth in the country in rebounding margin at +13.4 and is sixth in rebounds per game at 45.8. Michigan isn’t too far off in those categories, coming in at eighth at +12 in rebounding margin and averages 43 rebounds per contest.
“That’s one of the strengths, their size, but also their speed and their ability to go in transition with that size and their length on the defensive end,” Barnes Arico said. “With the one-day prep, it will be interesting to see how we handle their pressure with their length.”
Rennia Davis, a 6-foot-2 guard, leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per contest. Rae Burrell is a 6-foot-1 guard who isn’t far behind at 17 points per game.