SAN ANTONIO – The Michigan men’s and women’s basketball programs have both advanced to the Sweet 16.
For the men, it’s their fifth consecutive trip to the dance, and for the women, it’s their second time in a row.
Both programs are led by the low post presences of Hunter Dickinson and Naz Hillmon, who have been dominating their respective teams in points and rebounds.
On Monday (March 21), Hillmon and the No. 3 seeded lady Wolverines defeated No. 11 seed Villanova 64-49 in Crisler Center to advance to the Sweet 16.
Read: Michigan women’s basketball team advances to Sweet 16 with win over Villanova
The contest was Hillmon’s last home game, as the star forward is in her senior season.
Hillmon led the game in scoring with 27 points while grabbing 11 rebounds for the Wolverines, and the fans in attendance loved it as they serenaded her with MVP chants.
Monday’s performance was Hillmon’s 26th double-double of the year and the 50th of her career, which is a program record.
Numbers like that are why she was selected as the first lady Wolverine to the AP All-American first team.
“Those MVP chants are for real,” said Big Ten Coach of the Year Kim Barnes Arico. “You guys had an opportunity to see first-hand tonight the kind of player that she is. She is just so special, and as great as she is, she’s even better off the court. I’m going to miss her. I’m letting it soak in, as this game was the last time that she’ll be playing here at Crisler. She’s family, and I love her. She’s certainly left a legacy here at Michigan.”
“Coming in here Sunday, and we were in warmups, all of the Maize Rage was here,” said Hillmon. “And then on a six o’clock on a Monday, and to see the people fill the gym back up is just a testament. Throughout my years, we’ve gotten more and more fans, and just how proud of us that they are -- you can see that in their chants and just by them coming to the games. I mean, it’s just a ton of pride in that and just people wanting to celebrate women’s basketball.”
On Saturday, the men’s team defeated No. 3 seeded Tennessee 76-68 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Read: How sweet it is: Michigan basketball reaches fifth-straight Sweet 16, will play Villanova Thursday
Howard, the 2021 AP national Coach of the Year, did the opposite of what he did in Wisconsin, when he consoled a sobbing Kennedy Chandler, who Howard has known since he was a kid because he played basketball with his son.
Class at from @JuwanHoward pic.twitter.com/OA1mVNPRVX— Brandon L. Carr (@Carrpediem21) March 23, 2022
Dickinson put on a performance in the first weekend, breaking his head coach’s record for most points scored through two games of an NCAA Tournament, a record Howard set in 1994.
#HunterDickinson put on a performance in the first weekend in which he broke his head coaches record for most points scored through 2 games of an NCAA Tournament since Howard did it in 1994. Dickinson: 8-13, 27 points and 11 rebounds vs. Tenn; Thursday: 8-10, 21 points vs. Rams. pic.twitter.com/I38zhpPHEu— Brandon L. Carr (@Carrpediem21) March 21, 2022
Dickinson went 8-13 from the floor for 27 points and 11 rebounds vs. Tennessee. He went 8-10 Thursday (March 17), pouring in 21 points to lead the men in maize past Colorado State.
“Making it to the Sweet 16, as literal as it is, (is) sweet, because nobody believed in us,” Dickinson said. “Everybody thought that we shouldn’t even be in the tournament, and now people who were hating on us before the tournament are going home to watch us next week.”
Although Dickinson led the way for the Wolverines, the play of the day went to senior guard Eli Brooks, who impersonated his former backcourt buddy Zavier Simpson with the junior skyhook to extend the Wolverines lead in the waning moments.
Saturday’s victory gave Michigan back-to-back wins for the first time since Feb. 8 and 10.
Since 2013, the Wolverines are second in wins for the NCAA Tournament, trailing Gonzaga 24-23. No other Big Ten team has more than 15.
Their trip to the dance puts them in some sweet company, as they join Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Duke as teams with five-plus straight Sweet 16 appearances.
The men will look to ditto what the women did Monday. They, too, will face Villanova in what Michigan fans are hoping could be revengeful after suffering a heartbreaking loss in the 2018 NCAA Championship.
The No. 11 seeded men’s team is currently a five-point underdog to the heavily favored Wildcats, but fans and pundits should have no fear, as the matchup seems profitable for the men in maize.
In a traditional sense, both teams like to play in a crowd on offense, with their bigs playing in the hi-low action and their guards roaming the three-point line.
With that style of play, Dickinson won’t have to cover the pick and roll action as much as he did vs. Tennessee this past weekend, dumping it into the post time after time again.
The game will be held against the same team in the exact same location Thursday, tipping off at the AT&T Center in San Antonio at 7:29 p.m. on TBS.
The lady Wolverines will square off against No. 10 seed South Dakota on Saturday after the Coyotes upset No. 2 seed Baylor in the round of 32. That game will be played at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
With both programs gearing up for the dance, I think it’s time I pick out my best shoes for the occasion.
Time to find the right dancing shoes.@umichbball @umichwbball @Jumpman23 @Nike #GoBlue #BlueKnowIt #MichiganBasketball#Sweet16 #ToTheVictorGoesTheSpoils pic.twitter.com/pKLh0Pa7ga— Brandon L. Carr (@Carrpediem21) March 23, 2022