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Michigan Basketball: NCAA Tournament — Jackrabbits vs. Wolverines — Going Wabbit Hunting — Preview


Posted at 6:00am — 3/19/2013

Michigan Basketball: NCAA Tournament — Jackrabbits vs. Wolverines — Going Wabbit Hunting — Preview

Elmer Fudd, the somewhat cognitively challenged and totally gullible Looney Tune, loved Wabbit Season. The trouble was that Elmer was a horrible rabbit hunter. Michigan needs to be much better this Thursday.

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits play in the Summit League. The big bunnies have one of the nation’s premiere players in senior point guard, Nate Wolters. Wolters is one of those somewhat rare large point guards that can do about everything, and the statistics back this premise as being so. He is a can do it all type of player at any level, and like Burke can carry a team on a pair of broad shoulders. Nate is hitting well over 20 points per game.

Mar 12, 2013; Sioux Falls, SD, USA; South Dakota State Jackrabbits guard Nate Wolters (3) celebrates a play against the North Dakota State Bison in the second half during the championship game of the Summit League tournament at Sioux Falls Arena. South Dakota State defeated North Dakota State 73-67. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportsThe match-up between Burke and Wolters has the potential to be one of the highlights of the first weekend of the tournament. Wolters can drive, and Michigan’s number one mission will be to guard him hard and try and get the ball out of his hands. The inside guys from Michigan will need to help better than the last month. The defense will need to stop switching every time a flea flinches and just get down to basic, tough defense. That begs the question of the chance of the above being translated into reality.

The match-up between Wolters and Burke is somewhat, and only somewhat, reminiscent of last year’s Burke versus D. J. Cooper match-up, one that Cooper clearly prevailed.

Some basic, primordial observations start this article. First, South Dakota State can score. The team averages well over 70 points a game. That figure used to be chopped meat 30 years ago, but with today’s more physical basketball, getting to 70 points is somewhat of an accomplishment. As an aside the over-under at 138 seems an attractive possibility (always famous last words on the way to the poorhouse). This game has high entertainment potential.

Mar 15, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein (left) talks with guard Trey Burke (3) in the first half during the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament against the Wisconsin Badgers at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY SportsSecond, the Jackrabbits can play with the big boys. This team could not survive an 18 game Big Ten run, but give a team like the big bunnies a week off and good preparation and the result usually favors the underdog. Beating the favorite is another matter, and throughout the season SD State has lost to good competition, such as Alabama, Minnesota, and Belmont. The bunnies split with a decent Oakland University team.

Third, overall talent clearly, very clearly, favors Michigan. But SD State can shoot the ball and score points. That has been a recipe for beating Michigan, that and rebounding.

Fourth, SD State has one good power banger on the boards, Jordan Dykstra. He will give the inside guys of Michigan a moderate challenge, but if he dominates Michigan something is very much amiss. Michigan should actually do well on the boards.

The key for Michigan in this opening game is to tighten down the defense. With no offense to SD State, the recent mega-shortcomings of Michigan should not show up in this game. Again, if so, a major evaluation needs to transpire.

The pick here is Michigan by 10-15. There will be moments of past lapses, but eventually the talent should prevail. The bunnies best chance of victory is a monster game by Wolters and poor defense by Michigan, a team that has allowed many opponents the best shooting night of the year. The Jackrabbits have shot 47% from the field this year, a very strong number, one of the nation’s best totals.

So, hopefully Michigan’s preparation will yield some strategy for an offensive attack and the team will tighten down enough on defense to take away SD State’s other offensive options. Michigan will look to run, but if the Wolverine’s get a lead, the end game must be more effective.

If Michigan prevails, a very tough match-up with a fast and athletic VCU team is on the horizon. VCU is one of those teams few want to go against, especially in an early round. But first things first, Thursday will tell if the Wolverines have at least rebounded enough to take on the Summit league.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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