Michigan made history by knocking off one of the signature programs in college basketball. On Saturday, the Wolverines will look to do it again.
No. 6 Michigan earned its first Sweet 16 berth in school history with a convincing 70-55 win over No. 3-seed Tennessee. The Wolverines will face No. 2 seed Baylor, which is coming off a 90-48 win over Virginia Tech.
“We went back this week and talked about the history of our Michigan program,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico told reporters. “And who laid down the foundation, the people that came before and now it’s our responsibility to take those steps forward. And when you have a team like we do, experience, maturity and toughness, they were absolutely incredible.
“I think it’s just great for our university. It’s great for the state of Michigan, and it’s great for little kids growing up in Michigan and for the rest of the country to see that Michigan is not only a football and men’s basketball school, it’s also a women’s basketball school.”
It’s the second straight matchup Michigan will be a sizeable underdog. The Wolverines were +5.5-point underdogs and had a +210 moneyline when they upset the Volunteers. For Saturday, Michigan is a 12-point sports betting underdog and is +575 on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook.
This is the first NCAA tournament Michigan bettors are eligible to wager on. The state went live with retail sports betting in March of 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic canceled that year’s tournament. This year, the state officially launched its mobile sports betting and online casino game platforms on Jan. 22, giving players more access to betting on outcomes.
Saturday’s contest will feature two Katrina McClain Award finalists in Michigan’s Naz Hillmon and Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. The award is given to the top power forward in the country.
Hillmon became one of the most decorated players in Michigan history. She became the first Michigan player to earn Big Ten Player of the Year and was the first to be named to the AP All-American Second Team. Hillmon recorded her 15th double-double of the season in the win over Tennessee, finishing with 19 points and 15 rebounds. For the season, she’s averaging 16.5 points and 14 rebounds per contest.
“We’ve been having a lot of firsts on our team and for this program, and this is another one,” Hillmon said after her team reached its first Sweet 16. “Definitely so excited … I think this year I’ve gotten a lot of individual accolades, and they’re always great, but seeing the work my team has put in throughout the year and to be finally recognized as a team, is the best accolade I could ever get.”
Smith was Baylor’s top leading scorer during the regular season, averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per game. The Bears haven’t been challenged yet this postseason, defeating Jackson State and Virginia Tech by a combined score of 191-100.
Saturday will mark the second time Baylor and Michigan have faced each other in the NCAA Tournament. The two met in the second round of the 2018 tourney, with Baylor earning an 80-58 win.