The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week in the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis, and they won the first and lost the second. They were the #2 seed in the Midwest Region. On Friday (03/28/2014), they beat the #11 seed, Tennessee, 73-71, then on Sunday (03/30/2014), they lost to the #8 seed, Kentucky, 75-72. The win and the loss leave Michigan with a final record of 28-9. Unfortunately, the loss knocks Michigan out of the tournament, just one game short of a 2nd consecutive Final Four.
While it’s certainly disappointing that UM got knocked out of the tournament, they did much better than anyone could have predicted in mid-December. At that point, they had just lost a 2-point heartbreaker (72-70) at home to then #1 Arizona, and their record was 6-4. Just a few days later, their preseason All-American center, Mitch McGary, announced that he was going to have surgery on his ailing back, and he was done for the season. Things looked dismal for this season’s team, but they pulled it together and:
- Won the Big Ten regular season championship by 3 games.
- Got to (and lost) the Big Ten tournament championship game.
- Earned a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
- Made it to the Elite Eight for the 2nd year in a row.
Both games this week were close and exciting, with both game decided in the last few seconds. The 1st half of the Tennessee game was a see-saw battle until the 10:00 mark, when Michigan went on a nice 25-13 run to end the half up 45-34. Michigan kept the lead around 11 points for the first half of the 2nd half, then UT started slowly cutting into it. Still, UM had a 10-point lead (70-60) with 3:40 to go, and it looked like they could hold UT off. Although they never lost the lead, they did let it shrink down to 1 point (72-71) with 10 second left, then they hit a free throw and kept Tennessee from getting off a shot. It was a narrow escape, but that’s all you need in a single-elimination tournament.
Michigan got an early lead on Kentucky, and managed to stay ahead or tied for the whole 1st half. The game was tied (37-37) at halftime, and UK finally got a lead in the 2nd half. The game was another see-saw affair, with both teams opening up small leads, before the other team came back to tie it up or go ahead. It was tied (72-72) with 27 seconds left, and UK got the last shot. They made it, with only 2.6 seconds left, and UM didn’t have time to get off a good shot to tie it. It was a sad way to end an amazing season. It really felt like Michigan was a Team of Destiny, but the basketball gods didn’t see it that way.
One last time: Stats? Stats!
In the Tennessee game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (27/49 = 55.1%), they shot 3-pointers very well (11/20 = 55.0%), and they shot free throws very well (8/10 = 80.0%). They lost the rebounding battle (barely: 26-28) and the turnover battle (13-7). It was the turnover margin that made the game close.
The stats for the Kentucky game are a lot less impressive. Michigan didn’t shoot very well overall (27/57 = 47.4%), they didn’t shoot very well from 3-point range (7/18 = 38.9%), but they did shoot free throws pretty well (11/14 = 78.6%). As expected, they got hammered on the boards (35-24), but they won the turnover battle (7-11). The game was lost on the boards.
Individually, 3 Michigan players hit double figures in both games:
- Jordan Morgan – 15 points vs. Tennessee and 11 points vs. Kentucky. Jordan was the leading scorer for UM in the UT game.
- Glenn Robinson III – 13 and 14 points. GR3 hit all his 3-pointers this week: 1-for-1 vs. UT, and 2-for-2 vs. UK.
- Nik Stauskas. 14 and 24 points. Nik had a tough time with his 3-point shot in both games: 3-for-8 vs. UT, and 2-for-7 vs. UK.
Caris LeVert hit double figures (10 points) in the Tennessee game, but fell just a little short (9 points) in the Kentucky game.
5 other players scored in at least one game, just not in double figures:
- Spike Albrecht – 2 and 0 points.
- Jon Horford – 1 and 6 points.
- Zak Irvin – 9 and 5 points.
- Derrick Walton Jr. – 9 and 3 points.
Max Bielfeldt played in the Kentucky game, but didn’t score.
Michigan is done for the season, but I’m not. Check back next week for the Season Wrap-Up, Final Grades, and a Look Ahead To Next Season.