The Michigan Wolverines have once again advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament under Kim Barnes Arico by taking down the UNLV Lady Raiders, 71-59.
In a game the Wolverines never trailed in, there was both the usual dominance and a couple surprise performances. Here are some takeaways from their first round victory.
What ranked struggles?
If you made an emotional hedge by picking the Lady Raiders to get the upset in your brackets, you’re not alone.
Entering the Tournament, Michigan had notable struggles against opponents ranked in the top-25 — winning just one of their eight total games against teams ranked in the final top-25 and getting swept in Big Ten play against such opponents, including a Big Ten Tournament ending loss at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes. In contrast, UNLV entered the tournament on an absolute roll, winning 22 straight games and sweeping the Mountain West championships in the process.
Against the Lady Raiders though, the Wolverines looked like a brand new team. Kim Barnes Arico has reliably gotten the most out of her squad in the NCAA Tournament year in and year out, and this season looks like no exception.
Michigan’s three-headed monster was at full strength
At the start of the month, Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder called the trio of Leigha Brown, Emily Kiser, and Laila Phelia a “three-headed monster”. On Friday, that monster flexed it’s muscle.
Combining for 43 of Michigan’s 71 total points, 24 of its 41 total rebounds, and 13 of its 15 total assists, there’s little question when all three of the Wolverines’ top players are on the court, they can dominate the floor.
Never doubt Maddie Nylon in the postseason
It was a lights out postseason performance in 2020 that earned Maddie Nolan her moniker of “Maddie Nylon,” and three years later she’s still putting on a show when the lights are brightest.
Shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, Nolan scored 18 total points — tied for the team lead in the game. If she can keep that shooting clip up throughout the Tournament, there could be a fourth head growing in that aforementioned three headed monster.
Elise Stuck could be a player to watch in 2023-24
While Stuck has gotten a fair share of minutes this season — averaging just over nine minutes a game and appearing in all 31 of Michigan’s games so far headed into this weekend — her contribution has been something appreciated off the box score more than on it.
In the past few games however, Stuck has slowly but surely building a resume — culminating in seven rebounds and three blocks against UNLV while adding a steal and an assist. Coming up on her senior season next year, Stuck looks poised to take a big step from the bench to an out-and-out role player.
A showdown with Kim Mulkey’s LSU Tigers awaits
Barring a significant upset — it is March Madness for a reason, after all — a proverbial giant in the LSU Tigers stands between the Wolverines and a third-straight Sweet Sixteen appearance. The ninth ranked team in the nation, LSU has just two losses on the year and is coming off a heartbreaker loss against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in the SEC Tournament.
Kim Barnes Arico also has some history with Tigers head coach Kim Mulkey — in Michigan’s 2021 Tournament run, it was Mulkey’s Baylor Bears that denied them a trip to the Elite Eight in a nail-biter 78-75 overtime finish.