Nothing But ‘Net – Special Edition – 04/03/2018 – Oh Well…

Quick Look

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played in the National Championship game in the NCAA Tournament yesterday, and they lost it. On Monday (04/02/2018), they lost to Villanova, 79-62, in San Antonio, Texas. The loss leaves Michigan with a final record of 33-8 (13-5 in the Big Ten).

What Happened

Just like the semifinal game vs. Loyola-Chicago, this game was 75% nightmare, 25% sweet dream. Unfortunately, the good part came at the beginning, and the bad part came at the end, when it counts. Michigan controlled the game early, and led 21-14 at the 10:59 mark in the 1st half. From that point on, it was all Villanova. Still, Michigan was within 2 points (30-28) with 3:34 left. Villanova went on a 7-0 run to end the half, and that was the game. Every time UM got close in the 2nd half, Villanova would pour in another long 3-pointer to pull away again. Once they got a double-digit lead, Michigan never got it back down to single digits.

Villanova was definitely the better team, but that doesn’t mean that Michigan couldn’t have beaten them, In order to win, they needed one of the following things to happen:

  • Someone from Michigan needed to have a career night. Nope.
  • Michigan needed to shoot “lights out” from 3-point range. Nope.
  • Villanova needed to have an “off” night. Nope.
  • Michigan needed to control the tempo of the game for 40 minutes. Nope.

Once things got away, just before halftime, Michigan couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.

Stats

The stats for the game are pretty sad. Michigan shot decently overall (24-for-55 = 43.6%), but they couldn’t hit a 3-pointer to save their lives (3-for-23 = 13.0%). They also were lousy from the free throw line (11-for-18 = 61.1%), and they got crushed on the boards (38-27). They did win the turnover battle (10-12), but that was the only stat they won. Villanova shot 37.0% (10-for-27) from 3-point range. There’s the game right there.

Who Looked Good

The starters were Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Isaiah Livers, Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, and Moritz Wagner.

MAAR was Michigan’s leader in his final game as a Wolverine. He scored 23 points, but that’s all he did. He had 1 rebound, 0 assists, 0 blocked shots, 0 steals, and 0 turnovers.

Wagner also had a good game in what might be his final appearance for Michigan. He had 16 points and 7 rebounds. He also had 4 fouls and 4 turnovers.

Simpson had a decent game, with 10 points and 2 assists. He also had 3 turnovers.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Livers played 20 minutes, but failed to score, on 2 shots.

Matthews had a rough game, with 6 points on 9 shots. He fouled out.

Duncan Robinson had a miserable game in his final appearance for Michigan. He missed all 3 of his shots (all 3-point attempts), and failed to score.

Jon Teske had another rough game. He did score 2 points, but he only played 7 minutes.

Who Else Played

Jordan Poole chipped in 3 points off the bench.

Jaaron Simmons only played 3 minutes in his final game for Michigan. He failed to score.

Ibi Watson played in the final minute, and scored 2 points.

C.J. Baird, Eli Brooks, and Austin Davis all played, but none of them attempted a shot.

Who Didn’t Play

The rest of the practice squad players (Brent Hibbitts, Naji Ozeir, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t get into the game.

The Big Picture

While Michigan came up short (again) in the National Championship game, the season was still a great success. The loss will sting for a while, but once it fades, we’ll remember this as a very good season.

What’s Next

The season is over.

Check back next week for a season wrap-up, final grades, and a look ahead to next season. Spoiler alert: Michigan is going to be VERY good next season, even better than this season.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #23 – 04/02/2018 – Championship Game!

Quick Look

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week as the West Region team in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, and they won it. On Saturday (03/31/2018), they beat the South Region team, Loyola-Chicago, 69-57, in San Antonio, Texas. The win raises Michigan’s record to 33-7 (13-5 in the Big Ten). More importantly, Michigan now advances to the Championship Game tonight!

What Happened

This game was 75% nightmare, 25% sweet dream. Fortunately, the good part came at the end, when it counts. Michigan jumped out to an 8-point lead (12-4) at the 12:42 mark, including a couple 3-pointers, and it looked like they were going to run away with the game. The Michigan defense was baffling Loyola, but the Michigan offense wasn’t taking advantage of all the stops. After hitting two of their first three 3-point attempts, Michigan missed 12 in a row. Once Loyola started making some shots, they put together a 15-3 run, and led 19-15 with 5:29 to go in the half. They led the rest of the half, and pushed the lead up to 7 points (29-22) at halftime. It was one of the worst halves Michigan has played this season.

Things didn’t get much better in the first 10+ minutes of the 2nd half. Loyola pushed the lead up as high as 10 points (41-31) with 14:08 to go, and still led by 5 (47-42) at the 9:19 mark. That’s when the game turned around. Michigan went on a nice 12-0 run to take the lead back, 54-47, with 4:59 left. They pushed it up to 10 points (61-51) with 2:13 left, and kept it at least 8 points the rest of the way, including hitting 6 out of the last 8 free throws when Loyola was fouling to extend the game. It was an ugly win, but it was a win nonetheless.

Stats

The stats for the game are pretty unimpressive. Michigan shot decently overall (25-for-59 = 42.4%), they shot 3-pointers horribly (7-for-28 = 25.0%), and they shot free throws just well enough (12-for-18 = 66.7%). They won the rebounding battle (36-32), and they won the turnover battle (11-17). Even though they shot 3-pointers very poorly, they held Loyola to 10% 3-point shooting (1-for-10). That’s where they won the game.

Who Looked Good

The starters were Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Isaiah Livers, Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, and Moritz Wagner.

Wagner was the star of the game, with a remarkable performance. He kept Michigan in the game when no one else could buy a basket. Without him, Michigan would have lost the game for sure. He had 24 points and 15 rebounds (6 offensive!). Only two other players in NCAA Final Four history have had 20+ points and 15+ rebounds: Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird. That’s pretty exclusive company. He shot well (10-for-16 overall, 3-for-7 from 3-point range), he was a beast on the boards, and he played great defense.

Matthews also had a good game. He was the only other Michigan player in double figures, with 17 points. He also grabbed 5 rebounds, and played good defense.

MAAR was the only other starter to score, with 7 points. He had a miserable time shooting (2-for-11 overall, 0-for-5 from 3-point range), but he had 5 rebounds, and played good defense.

Duncan Robinson didn’t quite hit double figures (9 points), but he hit two of Michigan’s seven 3-pointers, along with three crucial free throws in the last minute.

Jordan Poole chipped in 7 points off the bench, along with 2 rebounds.

Jaaron Simmons played 11 important minutes, and hit a big 3-pointer.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Livers played 12 minutes, but didn’t even attempt a shot. He is a starter in name only. He plays good defense, but he is so limited offensively, Robinson plays most of the minutes.

Simpson played 26 minutes, and failed to score. He was 0-for-6 overall, 0-for-3 from 3-point range. He did run the offense pretty well (3 assists), but he also had 4 bad turnovers. As usual, his defense was great.

Jon Teske had a rough game. He did score 2 points, but he was whistled for 3 fouls in 3 minutes, and sat for the rest of the game.

Who Else Played

C.J. Baird, Eli Brooks, Austin Davis, and Ibi Watson all played, but none of them attempted a shot.

Who Didn’t Play

The rest of the practice squad players (Brent Hibbitts, Naji Ozeir, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t get into the game.

The Big Picture

This is it: the National Championship game. There is no more “tomorrow”, there is only “today”. At the beginning of the season, very few people were thinking that this season’s Michigan team was a Final Four team. It looked like a rebuilding year. Things have gone much better than expected, especially in the last 14 games, all wins.

What’s Next

The other Final Four semifinal game was a blowout win for the East Region team (and #1 seed) Villanova over the Midwest Region team (and #1 seed) Kansas, 95-79. So, Michigan will play Villanova at 9:20 p.m. (EDT) tonight (04/02/2018) on TBS, for the National Championship.

Villanova is very good. Their record is 35-4. They have many impressive wins (Tennessee, Gonzaga, Xavier [twice], West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Kansas), but their 4 losses have all been to unimpressive teams (Butler, St. John’s, Providence, and Creighton), so they are beatable. They don’t have a lot of height, with four guys at 6′ 9″, but no one taller, so they might have trouble handling Wagner and Teske on defense. Other than that, they have no apparent weaknesses, and they can score inside and outside. They are an excellent 3-point shooting team. This will be Michigan’s toughest test of the year on both offense and defense. If Michigan plays the way they did in their games against Michigan State (twice), Purdue (all 3 times, including 2 losses), and Texas A&M, they’ll be able to keep the game close, and maybe steal the win in the closing moments. If they have a slow start, or a long scoring drought, it could prove fatal, since it’s very hard to come from behind against Villanova.

Normally, I publish these articles once a week, on Monday mornings, but I’ll have a special article tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 04/03/2018) describing the National Championship Game. Check back tomorrow to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #22 – 03/26/2018 – Final Four!

Quick Look

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week as the #3 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, and they won both of them. On Thursday (03/22/2018), they beat the #7 seed, Texas A&M, 99-72, then on Saturday (03/24/2018), they beat the #9 seed, Florida State, 58-54. Both games were in Los Angeles, California. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 32-7 (13-5 in the Big Ten). More importantly, Michigan now advances to the Final Four!

What Happened

What a contrast: the TAMU game was fun and easy. All the shots were dropping, and the game was never in doubt after halftime. Then came the FSU game: none of the shots were falling, and the game was in doubt until the last 10 seconds. Still, in a single-elimination tournament, all that matters is “survive and advance”, and that’s what Michigan has done. They’ve done it well enough that they’re going to the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas this week.

The TAMU game was gorgeous. Michigan came out hot, built an early lead, and just kept expanding it. As I’ve said many times, when the 3-pointers fall for Michigan, they look great. All the other aspects of the game seem to fall into place, and they can beat anyone in the country. When the 3-pointers won’t go in, it gets trickier. See the description of the FSU game, below, and the stats.

In the TAMU game, Michigan jumped out to a quick 7-point lead (9-2) at the 16:44 mark, and built it up to 13 points (19-6) at the 12:16 mark. They got it up to 21 points (33-12) with 8:29 left in the 1st half, and got it as high as 29 points (52-23) with 2:16 to go. TAMU went on a 5-0 run to end the half, but they were still down 24 points at halftime, 52-28. In the 2nd half, Michigan was just playing to run the clock out, and they kept the lead in the 23-25 point range for most of the half. TAMU did get as close as 18 points (79-61) with 6:01 left in the game, but Michigan quickly pushed the lead back up to 25 points, and never let it back under 21 points the rest of the way. It was a dominating performance.

The FSU game was the exact opposite of the TAMU game: the 3-pointers wouldn’t go in, and Michigan struggled the whole game. Michigan led for the first 10 minutes of the game, but never by very much, usually 3-4 points. At the 10:32 mark, FSU went ahead, 16-15, then the teams traded baskets and the lead for the rest of the half, with Michigan leading by 1 point (27-26) at halftime. Michigan opened the 2nd half strong, and quickly built up a 10-point lead (38-28) with 14:30 left in the game. They kept the lead in the 5-6 point range for most of the 2nd half, but they couldn’t pull away from FSU. They finally built the lead back up to 10 points again (54-44) with 2:25 to go, and it looked like they would be able to close out the game. That’s when FSU went into “desperation mode”, and got within 2 points (56-54) with 0:24 left. Michigan made 2 crucial free throws, FSU missed a wild 3-point attempt, Michigan got the rebound, and that was the game. Surprisingly, FSU didn’t foul in the last 11 seconds to extend the game, even though they were only down 4 points. They just let Michigan dribble it out. Fine by me.

Stats

The stats for the TAMU game are amazing, a thing of beauty. Michigan shot very well overall (39-for-63 = 61.9%), they shot 3-pointers very well (14-for-24 = 58.3%), and they shot free throws very well (7-for-8 = 87.5%). They did lose the rebounding battle (33-28), but they won the turnover battle (7-14). Those 14 3-pointers won the game easily. Michigan set an NCAA tournament record when 8 different players made 3-pointers.

The stats for the FSU game are ugly. Michigan shot very poorly overall (19-for-49 = 38.8%), they shot 3-pointers terribly (4-for-22 = 18.2%), and they shot free throws poorly (16-for-24 = 66.7%). They lost the rebounding battle (36-34), but they did win the turnover battle (11-15). They won the game with defense, holding FSU to 31.4% shooting (16-for-51).

Who Looked Good

The starters were Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Isaiah Livers, Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, and Moritz Wagner for both games.

Matthews and Wagner were the only two Michigan players to hit double figures in both games. Matthews was the undisputed star of the FSU game, with 17 points and 8 rebounds, and he scored 18 points vs. TAMU. Without Matthews, Michigan would have lost the FSU game. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Regional tournament.

Wagner had a great game vs. TAMU, with 21 points, including 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range. He had 12 points vs. FSU, but on very inefficient shooting: 3-for-11 (0-for-7 from 3-point range).

MAAR was the star of the TAMU game, with a team-high 24 points and 7 assists. He almost hit double figures in the FSU game, with 9 points.

Simpson also had double figures in the TAMU game (11 points), and almost hit double figures in the FSU game (9 points). He did a great job of running the offense and played excellent defense.

The only other Michigan player to hit double figures in one game was Duncan Robinson, with 10 points off the bench vs. TAMU. He only had 7 points vs. FSU, but he hit a crucial 3-pointer late in the game, and sunk the 2 free throws that iced the win in the closing seconds.

Jon Teske also didn’t score many points (0 and 2), but he was instrumental in both wins. He came in for Wagner when he needed a rest or had foul trouble, and he played good defense, especially against the massive FSU front line.

Jordan Poole played in both games, scoring 5 and 0 points, including a 3-pointer vs. TAMU.

Ibi Watson hit a 3-pointer vs. TAMU. He didn’t play in the FSU game.

Austin Davis had a very nice dunk in the closing seconds of the TAMU game. He didn’t play in the FSU game.

C.J. Baird was the feel-good story of the TAMU game. He came in with 0:41 left in the game, and swished a long 3-pointer 10 seconds later. It was awesome. He was so happy! He didn’t play in the FSU game.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Livers played in both games, and scored 2 points in each game. He is a starter in name only. He plays good defense, but he is so limited offensively, Robinson plays most of the minutes.

Who Else Played

Jaaron Simmons played in both games, but failed to score.

Eli Brooks played for 1 minute in the TAMU game, but failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play

Some of the practice squad players (Brent Hibbitts, Naji Ozeir, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t get into either of the games. It’s too bad, since UM had an insurmountable lead over TAMU with 2-3 minutes to go.

The Big Picture

Making it to the Final Four is a Really Big Deal. Win or lose, they can be proud of being one of the top four teams in the country, and the last Big Ten team standing. If they play the way they did in the last 3 games of the Big Ten Tournament or the TAMU game, they’ll do fine. If they play the way they did in the other 3 NCAA Tournament games, it will be a grind.

What’s Next

This week, Michigan will play in the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas. In the semifinal game, they will play the #11 seed from the South Region, Loyola-Chicago, on Saturday (03/31/2018, 6:09 p.m. EDT, TBS) in the Alamodome. If they win that, they’ll face the winner of the other semifinal game between the #1 seed from the East Region, Villanova, and the #1 seed from the Midwest Region, Kansas, on Monday (04/02/2018).

I’ll confess: I had never even heard of Loyola-Chicago before they made the NCAA Tournament field this year, and I’ve only watched about 5 minutes of their games in the tournament. They must be good to have made it to the Final Four and beaten some good teams along the way: (#6 seed) Miami (FL), (#3 seed) Tennessee, (#7 seed) Nevada, and (#9 seed) Kansas State. They are currently 32-5, which is impressive, they didn’t really play anybody impressive in their regular season. They did beat Florida on the road, but they also lost to Boise State, Milwaukee, Missouri State, Indiana State, and Bradley, so they are beatable. They only have one truly big guy on their roster, and he’s 7′ 0″, but he’s only played 30 minutes and scored 10 points all season, so Michigan should have a distinct size advantage.

Let’s just say that the Championship Game will be challenging, if they get that far. Kansas and Villanova both look very tough.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #21 – 03/19/2018 – Sweet!

Quick Look

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week as the #3 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, and they won both of them. On Thursday (03/15/2018), they beat the #14 seed, Montana, 61-47, then on Saturday (03/17/2018), they beat the #6 seed, Houston, 64-63. Both games were in Wichita, Kansas. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 30-7 (13-5 in the Big Ten). More importantly, Michigan now advances to the Sweet 16!

What Happened

Let’s get one thing straight: in the Big Dance, there are no “style points”. It doesn’t matter if you win by one point on a buzzer-beater (more on that to come) or cruise to a 30-point blowout victory, the only thing that matters is “survive and advance”. That said, Michigan played two of their least impressive games of the season last week, but still managed to win them both. They played good defense in both games, but the offense was “out of sync” most of the time. They bricked (and airballed) way too many open 3-point attempts, and they missed difficult-but-makeable layups that they have made all season. If they had played just average games on offense, they would have cruised to a 30-point win over Montana, and not had to rely on a 28-foot buzzer-beater to beat Houston.

By now, I’m sure that everyone reading this has already seen the replay of Jordan Poole‘s incredible 3-pointer to snatch victory from the very jaws of defeat a dozen times, but it’s still almost too amazing to believe. That’s the sort of thing that seems to happen TO Michigan, not FOR Michigan. We have been on the losing end of this script way too many times, it had to be our turn eventually. Was Poole’s shot better than Trey Burke’s buzzer-beater against Kansas in the 2013 NCAA Tournament? I think so. It was certainly more surprising. Burke was the National Player of the Year, and Poole is a lightly-used true freshman. In any case, we’ll never forget Poole or his big shot.

We’d like to forget the Montana game. As the announcers said at the end of it, “burn the tape”. It was a graceless, ugly game. As they have done many times this season, Michigan started out very slowly. With 15:43 left in the 1st half, Montana was up 10-0. Once UM finally got on the board, they played pretty well, and managed to tie the game up 17-17 with 6:40 to go in the half. They tied it again (19-19) at the 5:30 mark, then went ahead for the first time, 22-19 at the 3:59 mark. They got the lead up to 6 points (31-25) with 0:42 left in the half, and led by 3 points (31-28) at halftime. Michigan came out of the locker room with a burst of energy, and pushed the lead up to 14 points (44-30) with 9:53 to go in the game. They kept the lead in the 10-12 point range for the rest of the game, and made their free throws in the closing minutes to win the game. It was an ugly win, but it was a win, and that’s what counts.

The Houston game was almost as ugly as the Montana game. Houston led for most of the game (20:48), while Michigan led for 10:54, and the score was tied for 8:18. There were 17 lead changes, and 12 ties. Neither team ever led by more than 6 points. It was close, and it was a defensive struggle. Once again, it took Michigan a while to get going. Houston led 6-1 with 14:53 to go in the 1st half. Once they got going, Michigan opened up a 6-point lead (17-11) with 10:07 to go, but they couldn’t hold it. Houston tied it up (22-22) with 5:38 to go, then the teams traded baskets, and went to halftime tied 28-28. Houston led for much of the 2nd half, and got their biggest lead (49-43) with 10:52 to go. Michigan tied it up (51-51) at the 5:41 mark with a very rare 5-point play. The teams traded baskets and the lead, and it was still tied up (61-61) with 0:44 left. Houston hit a couple free throws to go up by 2 (63-61) with 0:24 left, but they missed a crucial front-end of a one-and-one with 3.9 seconds left. Michigan got the rebound, called timeout, and set up a desperate last-gasp play with 3.6 seconds left. Isaiah Livers threw a perfect pass to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman at mid-court. MAAR dribbled a couple times, then found Poole for his now-famous 28-footer for the win as time expired. It was unbelievable. As my friend Tom M. said, and I quote: “Whooooooooooooo-ooooooh !!!!”

The win over Houston was particularly gratifying because of all the pre-game hype about Houston and their point guard, Rob Gray. Now, don’t get me wrong, Gray is a very good player, and he seems like a nice enough guy, but the CBS/TBS pre-game “Tournament Central” and game announcing crew could not stop talking about him. If you listened to the pre-game “analysis”, you would have to wonder why Michigan even bothered showing up. They hardly even mentioned Michigan. It was “Gray this” and “Gray that”. They loved his “man bun”. To listen to them, he was the greatest player ever in college basketball, another Steph Curry and Michael Jordan combined. He played a pretty good game against Michigan (23 points on 22 shots), but every time he touched the ball, the announcers were just giddy speculating about what incredible thing he was going to do next. Every time he made a 3-pointer (he was 4-for-8 from 3-point range), they went wild. What a story! Look at his man bun! Go Houston! Sweet Sixteen! Final Four! National Championship! What a story! It was ridiculous. I’m just glad Michigan won to shut them up.

Stats

The stats for the Montana game are pretty weak. Michigan shot decently overall (21-for-47 = 44.7%), they shot 3-pointers pretty poorly (5-for-16 = 31.3%), and they shot free throws pretty poorly (14-for-22 = 63.6%). They won the rebounding battle (36-33), but they lost the turnover battle (14-12). They won this game with defense, holding Montana to 32.1% shooting, including a 10-minute scoreless stretch in the 2nd half.

The stats for the Houston game are even worse than the Montana stats. Michigan shot very poorly overall (21-for-59 = 35.6%), they shot 3-pointers very poorly (8-for-30 = 26.7%), but they shot free throws reasonably well (14-for-20 = 70.0%). They lost the rebounding battle (41-38), but they won the turnover battle (7-10). Looking at the stats, I don’t know how UM won this game, they just did.

Who Looked Good

The starters were Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Isaiah Livers, Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, and Moritz Wagner for both games.

Matthews and MAAR were the only two Michigan players to hit double figures in both games. Matthews was the undisputed star of the Montana game, with 20 points and 11 rebounds (for a double-double), and he scored 11 points vs. Houston. Without Matthews, Michigan would have lost the Montana game.

MAAR had 11 and 12 points this week, but he was “off” offensively. He kept jacking up 3-pointers, but he only hit one; he was 1-for-6 vs. Montana, and 0-for-6 vs. Houston.

Wagner was the only other starter to hit double figures in one game, with 12 points vs. Houston. He had a miserable game (5 points in 32 minutes) vs. Montana.

The only other Michigan player to hit double figures in one game was Duncan Robinson, with 11 points off the bench vs. Houston. He also had 7 points vs. Montana, and he played good defense in both games.

Even though he didn’t score many points (3 and 8), Poole was the star of the Houston game, based solely on his amazing final 3-pointer. It was a shot for the ages.

Simpson did a great job on defense, especially against Man Bun (Rob Gray) for Houston. He didn’t score many points (5 and 4), but he did a nice job running the offense.

Jon Teske also didn’t score many points (2 and 6), but he was instrumental in both wins. He came in for Wagner when he needed a rest or had foul trouble, and he hit 6-for-8 free throws in the Houston game.

Jaaron Simmons played in both games, and scored 6 and 0 points. He hit 3 key baskets in the Montana game, and he was calm and steady out there when he came in for Simpson.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Livers played in both games, and missed all 3 of his shots. He did have the crucial pin-point pass to MAAR to win the Houston game, but that was his only significant contribution.

Who Else Played

Eli Brooks played for 5 minutes in the Montana game, and made a basket!

Ibi Watson played for 3 minutes in the Houston game, but failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play

Austin Davis and the practice squad players (C.J. Baird, Brent Hibbitts, Naji Ozeir, Rico Ozuna-Harrison, and Luke Wilson) didn’t get into either of the games.

The Big Picture

Making it to the Sweet Sixteen is a Big Deal. Making it two years in a row is a bigger deal. Ask our Little Brothers in East Lansing: they’ve missed the Sweet Sixteen for 3 years in a row now, and they’ve gone 1-1 in their last 4 tournaments (2017 Big Ten Tournament, 2017 NCAA Tournament, 2018 Big Ten Tournament, and 2018 NCAA Tournament). Now who’s the better team? Michigan has now won 11 games in a row. State? They’re 2-2 in their last 4 games, including a loss in their virtual home game vs. Syracuse on Sunday. I’m sure glad Miles Bridges came back to win a National Championship! That Tom Izzo is indeed the best coach in college basketball!

Ahem. Back to the Big Picture. Even though Michigan is in the Sweet Sixteen, they’re kind of lucky to be there. They didn’t play particularly well in either game last week, and if they play like that in any of the remaining games, they’ll be done for the season. They need to get back to the level of play that won them the Big Ten Tournament. They’re running the offense correctly, and getting the open 3-pointers and difficult-but-makeable layups that have gotten them this far, they just missed the shots that they made regularly during the previous games.

What’s Next

This week, Michigan will play in the Sweet Sixteen in Los Angeles, California, in the West Regional. They will play the #7 seed, Texas A&M, on Thursday (03/22/2018, 7:30 p.m. EDT, TBS) in the Staples Center. If they win that one, they’ll move on to the Elite Eight, and face the winner of the game between the #4 seed (Gonzaga) and the #9 seed (Florida State) on Saturday (03/24/2018).

Texas A&M is currently 22-12, with some pretty impressive wins (West Virginia, USC, Buffalo, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina), and some surprising losses (Texas [exhibition], LSU [twice], and Mississippi State). They crushed (#2 seed) North Carolina (86-65) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, so they’re for real. They don’t have any players taller than 6′ 10″, but they’ve got 4 of them, and 3 more at 6′ 9″. Michigan can certainly beat them, but they’ll have to get back to the high level of play they showed in the last 3 games of the Big Ten Tournament. The way they played against Montana and Houston won’t cut it.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #20 – 03/12/2018 – On To The Big Dance

The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team didn’t play any games last week, after winning the Big Ten Tournament the week before. They finished the regular season with a record of 28-7 (13-5 in the Big Ten).

They spent the week off resting, practicing, and waiting for their matchup in the NCAA Tournament. They got it: they are the #3 seed in the West Region, and they will play the #14 seed, Montana, in Wichita, Kansas on Thursday (03/15/2018), at 9:50 p.m. EDT, on TBS.

Montana finished their regular season with a record of 26-7 (16-2 in the Big Sky). They won their conference regular season and tournament championships. They have no impressive wins, and a few surprising losses (Penn State, UC Santa Barbara, Stanford, Washington, Eastern Washington, and Idaho). They have a couple big guys (6’10” and 7’0″), but they’re both freshmen. The 7-footer has scored 13 points this season and averages 1.8 minutes per game, and the 6’10” guy is apparently being redshirted. So, Moritz Wagner and Jon Teske should control the lane, which is a key to Michigan’s success. This is a team that Michigan can handle, but they have to play the way they have in the last nine games: under control, and with poise.

If Michigan can get by Montana, they will face the winner of the #6 seed (Houston) vs. the #11 seed (San Diego State) game on Saturday (03/17/2018), for a trip to the Sweet 16.

Check back next week for all the details.

Go Blue!