The (#7) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games this week in the NCAA Tournament in Milwaukee, and they won them both. They were the #2 seed in the Midwest Region. On Thursday (03/20/2014), they beat the #15 seed, Wofford, 57-40, then
on Saturday (03/22/2014), they beat the #7 seed, Texas, 79-65. The 2 wins raise Michigan’s record to 27-8, but more importantly, they put Michigan in the Sweet 16 again, for the 2nd year in a row. That is definitely a big deal.
Michigan was expected to beat Wofford handily, and they did, even though the game wasn’t much to look at. UM didn’t play their “A” game, but they played well enough for long enough to win comfortably. Michigan missed their first 2 shots, and Wofford made their first 2 shots, so it was 4-0 with 18:17 left in the half. Michigan then went on a 9-0 run to go ahead 9-4, with 14:49 to go in the half, and they never trailed again. The Michigan lead got as high as 14 points (30-16) with 2:36 to go, and was still 14 points at halftime (34-20). Wofford fought back hard to open the 2nd half, and got the lead down to 7 points (40-33) with 9:25 to go, but that was as close as they got. UM pushed the lead back up to double figures (45-35, with 6:24 left), and won by 17 points. Not the most impressive win in recent memory, but the golden rule in NCAA Tournament play is “survive and advance”. Just ask all the top-ranked teams that lost in the first round: (#5) VCU, (#6) Ohio State, (#5) Cincinnati, (#5) Oklahoma, (#6) Massachusetts, and (#3) Duke. They would all love an “ugly win”.
Michigan was also expected to beat Texas, but not as easily, and not by as big a margin. Once again, Michigan found themselves down by a few points early (6-3, with 16:40 left in the 1st half), but they tied it at 6-6 in less than a minute, then went ahead for good with a nice 10-0 run. With 13:11 left in the half, they led 13-6, and pushed the lead up to double digits (21-10) with 10:35 to go. They got the lead up to 18 points (30-12) with 7:20 to go, but let Texas creep back a little at halftime (43-30). UM opened the 2nd half strong, and pushed the lead back up to 18 points (53-35) with 16:02 left in the game, then they went stone cold. Texas clawed their way back into the game, and got as close as 6 points (58-52) with 8:00 left in the game. UM finally started scoring again, and pushed the lead back up to a comfortable 16 points (76-60) with 1:05 left, then ran out the clock. This win was a little more impressive than the Wofford win, and it was encouraging to see Michigan play so well during “crunch time”.
In the Wofford game, Michigan didn’t shoot particularly well overall (22-for-46 = 47.8%), but they did shoot 3-pointers pretty well (7-for-17 = 41.2%). They didn’t shoot many free throws, but they hit most of them: 6-for-9 = 66.7%. They won the rebounding battle (31-26), but they lost the turnover battle (11-9). Not very impressive stats for a not very impressive win.
The stats for the Texas game are a little more impressive. Michigan shot pretty well overall (24-for-54 = 44.4%), they shot very well from 3-point range (14-for-28 = 50.0%), and they shot free throws well (17-for-21 = 81.0%). They got hammered on the boards (41-30), but they won the turnover battle (4-9). The big difference was 3-point shooting: UM hit 14 of them, while Texas hit 4 (on 11 attempts).
Individually, 3 Michigan players hit double figures in both games:
- Jordan Morgan – 10 points vs. Wofford and 15 points vs. Texas. Jordan also had 10 rebounds in each game, for 2 double-doubles!
- Glenn Robinson III – 14 and 14 points.
- Nik Stauskas. 15 and 17 points. Nik was the high scorer for UM in both games. He also had a career-high 8 assists in the Texas game.
Caris LeVert hit double figures (14 points) in the Texas game, but only had 6 points in the Wofford game.
5 other players scored in at least one game, just not in double figures:
- Spike Albrecht – 0 and 5 points.
- Jon Horford – 4 and 0 points.
- Zak Irvin – 2 and 6 points.
- Derrick Walton Jr. – 6 and 8 points.
Michigan plays on in the NCAA Tournament. The next 2 rounds of games (the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8) for the Midwest Region are in Indianapolis. Michigan plays the #11 seed, Tennessee, on Friday (03/28/2014, 7:15 p.m. EDT, CBS). If they win that one, they’ll play the winner of the (#4) Louisville/(#8) Kentucky game on Sunday (03/30/2014, time TBA, CBS) for a trip to the Final Four.
Even though Tennessee is a #11 seed, they must be doing something right, since they won their “First Four” (play-in) game on Wednesday vs. (#11) Iowa, then came back on Friday to beat (#6) Massachusetts, then played again on Sunday to beat (#14) Mercer, the team that had knocked off (#3) Duke. Michigan is going to have to take Tennessee very seriously.
Check back next week to see what happened, and why.