Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s tournament time. A time where productivity in the workplace plummets to basically zero. A time when we pledge our fandom to teams like Pacific and Cal Poly. A time where we study game film, decipher advanced basketball analytics, and listen to two hour seminars from college basketball experts, only to have your bracket beaten by that old blue haired lady in your office who picked teams based on who her cat likes the best. Michigan happens to be one of the lucky 68(?) teams in the tournament this year. As the number two seed in the Midwest region, Michigan will be the higher seed in every match-up until they reach the elite 8 (hopefully they can make it that far), and only if they face Wichita State in that game. Part one will take a look at how Michigan will match-up with the teams they will face in their first two games. Part two of this article will come out after Michigan (hopefully) makes it to the Sweet 16.
Before we begin talking about how Michigan measures up to the other teams in the region, we first have to see what Michigan has to offer.
Michigan is perimeter oriented team lead by sophomore shooting guard Nik Stauskas. Nik was awarded Big Ten player of the year honors and was a unanimous selection for first team all Big Ten. He is joined in the back court by fellow sophomore Caris Levert and freshman Derrick Walton Jr. The starters in the front court are sophomore Glenn Robinson III and senior Jordan Morgan. Robinson is an undersized power forward, but has the ability to stretch the floor and possesses NBA level athleticism. Morgan is the anchor of the defense and has a lot of rebounding responsibilities being the only true big man on the court. Coming off the bench will be sophomore Spike Albrecht, junior Jon Horford, and sharpshooting freshman Zak Irvin. Coach John Beilein normally goes with this eight man rotation unless a foul situation arises. As mentioned earlier, Michigan relies heavily on their perimeter players to score most of the points. Michigan runs a lot of ball screens and dribble hand-offs at the top of the key to get the offense rolling. The Wolverines shoot and make a lot of threes, and will have to catch fire from deep to make a run in the tournament.
Let’s move on to the opponents now shall we? We shall.
Game 1 opponent: Wofford
Should Michigan beat them?: To a pulp
The Terriers are a scrappy bunch who finished third in the Southern Conference. They hit their stride at the right time though, beating Western Carolina 56-53 to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Guard Karl Cochran leads Wofford’s offensive attack averaging 15.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Fellow guard Spencer Collins and forward Lee Skinner also chip in in the scoring column, averaging 12.8 and 11.2 points per game respectively. The Wolverines will have the size advantage in this game as the biggest player for the Terriers is sophomore forward C.J Nuemann. Wofford ranks 235th in the country in adjusted offense (which takes game tempo into consideration), and 127th in adjusted defense.
Key to winning:
Wofford will have a hard time defending Michigan’s size on the perimeter, so expect those guys to have a big game. Michigan will look to get Stauskas and Levert the ball early and often, as they usually do, and let them go to work. The Wolverine’s should also be able to collect the lion’s share of the rebounds because of their distinct size advantage.
Game 2 opponent: Winner of Texas/Arizona State
Nickname: Longhorns/Sun Devils
Colors: White and burnt Orange/Maroon and Gold
Conference: Big 12/ Pac 12
Should Michigan beat them?: Probably/Probably
We’ll start with the higher seed. Texas is a balanced team who has notched some good wins this year. Victories over North Carolina, Kansas, and Oklahoma State bolstered their resume as they made their push to make the NCAA tournament. The team is led by Freshman Isaiah Taylor who averaged 12.5 points, 3.3 boards, and 3.9 assists per game. Their leading scorer is junior Jonathan Holmes who averages 13 points while adding 7.2 rebounds per game as well. The Longhorns actually have two more players averaging double digits in Javan Felix (11.8) and Cameron Ridley (11.2).
Key to winning: Texas has a lot of big bodies who love to hit the glass. They don’t have many shooters, so collecting rebounds and limiting second chance points will be very important for the Wolverines. The Longhorns don’t really boast impressive offensive or defensive numbers, so their game relies heavily on crashing the boards. They are good at it though, ranking 3rd nationally in rebounds per game at 42.
Now on to Arizona State. The Sun Devils backed their way into a ten-seed by losing their last three games of the season. This doesn’t mean that the Sun Devils aren’t a dangerous team though. They have two players averaging over 15 points a game and another guy who is 7’2. They have five guys in their rotation who hit at least 39% of their threes and did I mention the guy who is SEVEN FEET AND TWO INCHES TALL? Giant Jordan Bachynski will likely give Michigan fits since he is 5 inches taller than anyone who will be trying to guard him. Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall are two players mentioned above who score over 15 points per game and also two of the five Sun Devils who shoot at least 39% from three. Guarding them will be important.
Keys to winning: Well, defending Andre the Giant would be a good place to start. Although not a huge scoring threat, his size alone could cripple Michigan on the offensive glass. He also blocks a ton of shots, so hopefully Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford wear their big boy pants for this game. ASU is a top 100 offensive team and a top 30 defensive team nationally which makes you wonder how they only went 21-11. Something must not be clicking in Tempe.
There are Michigan’s potential foes as they try to make their way into the Sweet 16. Part 2 will be released when (if) the Wolverine’s make it to that round. Looking at the numbers, Michigan should blow by Wofford before getting a much stiffer test with either of their next two opponents. Both Texas and ASU can be impressive at times and their rebounding or general hugeness could pose problems. Regardless, Michigan isn’t a two seed because they stink, and have plenty of weapons in their arsenal as well. Here’s to hoping that they’re firing on all cylinders starting on Thursday.