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Sweet 16 Preview: No. 6 seed Michigan looks to keep dancing against No. 2 seed Baylor

The Michigan Wolverines are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. The Baylor Lady Bears are Sweet 16 regulars and will look to keep their dominant season rolling.

Michigan v Tennessee
Leigha Brown (with ball) has been outstanding for the Wolverines after transferring from Nebraska.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The No. 6 seed Michigan Wolverines will be making their first-ever appearance in the Sweet 16 against the No. 2 seed Baylor Lady Bears, who are the reigning national champions and are making their 12th-straight appearance in the Sweet 16. This historic matchup takes place at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (ABC).

This is the second time that the two programs have faced each other. The first meeting took place in the second round of the 2018 NCAA tournament that ended with a win for Baylor, 80-58.

The path to get here has been very different for these programs. Michigan finished 14-4 in the regular season, suffered an extended pause due to COVID-19 issues, lost its opening game in the Big Ten tournament and has played just 21 games. Meanwhile, Baylor flew through the regular season, going 27-2, and won the Big 12 regular season and tournament.

The Wolverines defeated Florida Gulf Coast in the first round, 87-66, with a dominant second-half performance, outscoring the Eagles by 16 points. In the second round, against a tough Tennessee Lady Volunteers team that was the better seed, the Wolverines earned a 70-55 win with an impressive defensive performance as they held the Lady Vols to 33.9 percent shooting from the field.

Junior guard and Nebraska transfer Leigha Brown has been outstanding, scoring over 20 points in the first rounds on 56 percent shooting and 14-of-17 from the charity stripe, including 11-of-11 in the win against Tennessee.

Baylor has dominated their opponents, Jackson State and Virginia Tech, outscoring them 191-100. The Bears had five double-figure scorers against Jackson State and four double-figure scorers against Virginia Tech. After three 20-point games in the regular season, Moon Ursin has back-to-back 20-point games in the NCAA tournament.

This contest also features two Wade Trophy and Katrina McClain Award finalists: Naz Hillmon for Michigan and NaLyssa Smith for Baylor. The Katrina McClain Award is the award for the top power forward in the country. Hillmon led her team in the regular season with 24.7 points and 11.6 rebounds. In two tournament games, Hillmon is averaging 16.5 points and 14 rebounds. Smith led the Bears with 18 points and nine rebounds per contest in the regular season. Over Baylor’s tournament run, Smith is contributing 16.5 points, seven rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.

There is one Michigan-Baylor connection that could be a factor: current Michigan assistant coach Toyelle Wilson was an assistant coach at Baylor for six seasons and was there for the 2019 national championship season.

Game Information

No. 6 seed Michigan Wolverines (16-5, 9-4 Big Ten) vs. No. 2 seed Baylor Lady Bears (27-2, 17-1 Big 12)

When: Saturday, March 27 at 3 p.m. ET

Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX

How to watch/listen: ABC/Radio: 92.9 KLRK (Waco, TX) or Michigan Audio

Key to the matchup: Naz Hillmon and Leigha Brown will need to have monster games if they want to keep Michigan’s tourney run going. On paper, Baylor has the edge in every statistical category, especially on defense. The Bears smothered their opponents, holding them to 54.2 points per game and 31.7 percent shooting from the floor.