The Michigan women’s basketball team faces its biggest challenge of the tournament so far, squaring off against No. 2 Baylor this afternoon for a trip to the Elite Eight.
While the Wolverines are making their first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen in program history, this is very familiar territory for the Baylor Bears. The defending national champion Bears are making their 15th appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, with an overall record of 9-5 in Sweet Sixteen games.
Though Baylor poses a tremendous challenge for Michigan, the Wolverines are far from your traditional underdog. Michigan forward and Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon has been a dominant force all year long and is one of four finalists for the Wade Trophy, presented annually to the best women’s player by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. Hillmon is averaging 24.3 points and 11.6 rebounds this season. The Wolverines are also led by junior guard Leigha Brown, who averaged 17.9 points per game throughout the season and has elevated her average to 25.5 points per game in tournament play.
In her ninth season as head coach of the women’s basketball team, Kim Barnes Arico has turned the program into one of the most talented in the country. Barnes Arico was able to achieve 20-plus wins in each of her first eight seasons in Ann Arbor. Though she wasn’t able to reach the 20-win mark during the oddity of a COVID season, the Wolverines are currently in the midst of their deepest tournament run in program history.
With Michigan on the verge of reaching yet another program first by potentially punching a ticket to the Elite Eight, Barnes Arico reflected on what their progress has meant for the University and for the state of Michigan.
“It’s just great for our university, it’s great for the state of Michigan,” Barnes Arico said, “it’s great for the little kids growing up in Michigan and it’s great for the rest of the country to see that Michigan is not only a football and men’s basketball school, but it’s also a women’s basketball school.”
Who: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: No. 6 seed Michigan vs. No. 2 seed Baylor
Day/Time: Saturday, March 27, 3 p.m. ET