Unless you’re the Virginia men’s basketball team, it’s expected that the #1 seed will have no difficulty with the #16 seed. Indeed, the Louisville Cardinals easily handled business against the Colonials of Robert Morris on Friday afternoon.
What’s not necessarily expected is for the #8 seed to completely dismantle the #9 seed. But that’s exactly what happened as the Michigan Wolverines sent Kansas State packing by a score of 84-54.
(Not Quite) Champions Of The West
The Wolverines sputtered a bit at the start of their season, but finished strong with an 8-1 run which included a win over Iowa to finish the regular season at 21-10. A double-bye in the Big 10 tournament led to a semifinal exit at the hands of eventual runner-up and NCAA #3 seed Maryland. But on the whole, it’s been another successful season with Kim Barnes Arico at the helm.
In many respects, Arico leads a team that has a lot of commonality with the Cardinals. Take for instance Big 10 Freshman of the Year, Sixth Player of the Year, and All-Big 10 First Team forward Naz Hillmon. Shades of Dana Evans are evident as Hillmon hasn’t started a game yet leads the team in scoring and rebounds while averaging just 22.9 minutes per game. She’ll be a tough match for Sam and Bionca on the inside, but her youth is a factor and she’s prone to youthful mistakes.
Senior center Hallie Thome anchors the center for the maize and blue with her imposing 6’5″ presence, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. 6’1″ sophomore forward Hailey Brown starts at the four spot but can easily stretch things out to the perimeter much like Sam Fuehring. All told, the Wolverines have the length to compete with the Cardinals on a nearly equal footing, if not the talent.
On the perimeter, the Wolverines are ably orchestrated by freshman Amy Dilk and sophomore Deja Church who combine for an average 6.7 assists per game while also combining for close to 17 points per game. And while not quite on par with Durr, Carter, or Evans, Michigan’s senior guard Nicole Munger represents the primary perimeter threat courtesy of 34.9% shooting from beyond the arc.
As for the demolition of the K-State Wildcats…. Four Wolverines in double figures, a +31 rebound margin, 22 assists and 56 points in the paint versus 26. Yeah, you read that right. Michigan had 50 rebounds to K-State’s 19. Suffice to say, the Cardinals will need to show up in the interior defensively.
Seeds Of Success
#1 seeded Louisville caught a couple of side glances from certain corners <COUGH> ESPN <COUGH> but did what they needed to do on Friday afternoon. Arica Carter spent the day on the bench as a precaution, and Bionca Dunham wasn’t among the starting five as per the usual. Add to that the fact that temporary head coach Stephanie Norman made a lot of lineup changes throughout the day and you had a recipe for a bit of chaos.
But, as they have done so many times before, the Cardinals showed how much of a team they truly are. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Mykasa Robinson and Kylee Shook in the starting five and serving as ably as they ever have. Dana Evans off the bench for another lights out performance. And Sam Fuehring, back from injury and better than ever. Oh, and don’t forget Asia Durr and her Asia Durrness.
Keys To The Game
- Hopefully Bionca Dunham will once again join Sam Fuehring in the starting lineup. Bionca’s defensive presence has served to stifle many an opponent’s offensive rhythm. If Sam is the butcher, Bionca’s the surgeon.
- On that note, a strong interior game is essential against a Michigan team that thrives on using their size to push opponents around. Louisville will need to own the glass and limit second chance points and breakout opportunities as much as possible.
- While strong, the Wolverines do lack maturity in certain regards. Even in their deconstruction of Kansas State they had 22 turnovers. Louisville’s guards have been extremely effective defensively, and pressuring Michigan should result in some easy points.
- Sam Fuehring’s 19 point, 11 rebound double-double against Robert Morris proved both to herself and the coaching staff that her reactor was running at 105%. Arica Carter will need a similar game in order to restore her own confidence should the Cardinals advance. And a few three pointers here and there wouldn’t hurt the effort.
The Cardinals tip off against the Wolverines at noon on Sunday. The game is set to air on ESPN2. But that last part doesn’t matter, because you’re going to be at the KFC Yum! Center for Asia Durr, Sam Fuehring, and Arica Carter’s final collegiate game in Louisville.
You won’t be there because the men lost and you figured, “Might as well.” You won’t be there because you had nothing better to do on Sunday afternoon. You’re going to be there because this is Louisville. This is basketball. This is the #1-seeded Cardinals women’s basketball team. This is March. Get mad.
Michigan – #10 Nicole Munger (Sr.-G), #20 Deja Church (Sr.-G), #1 Amy Dilk (Fr.-G), #15 Hailey Brown (So.-F), #30 Hallie Thome (Sr.-C)
Louisville – #25 Asia Durr, #11 Arica Carter, #23 Jazmine Jones, #33 Bionca Dunham, #3 Sam Fuehring
Date: Sunday, Mar 24
Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT
Site: KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Radio: WKRD 790 AM / Video: ESPN2