Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
Drew Montag, Basketball Editor
The (#10) University of Michigan men’s basketball team is going to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament! It’s been 20 years (1992-1993) since UM made it to the Final Four, but they finally did it. Michigan, the #4 seed in the South Region, played two games in the tournament last week, both in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington (TX), and they won both of them. On Friday (03/29/2013), they beat the #1 seed, Kansas, 87-85 in overtime, then on Sunday (03/31/2013), they beat the #3 seed, Florida, 79-59. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 30-7.
The Kansas game has to be the most impressive comeback in Michigan basketball history. Sure, they might have come from further behind late in some other game, but this was more impressive than any other comeback because of the situation and the opponent. The situation: an NCAA Tournament game, in the Sweet Sixteen, playing for a spot in the Elite Eight, on national TV. The opponent: #1 seed Kansas, a team that was also ranked #1 in the nation earlier in the season. The comeback: down 14 points (68-54) with 6:50 left in the game. Or, how about down 10 points (72-62) with 2:52 left? Not scary enough? Try: down 5 points (76-71) with 21 seconds left. It took an ice-water-in-his-veins step-back 3-pointer from Trey Burke with 4 seconds left to tie the game, and more heroics in overtime to win it. But, the 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime is “The Shot” that everyone will still be watching and talking about 20 years from now. In any case, it was a very impressive, and unexpected, comeback. Michigan had been behind almost the entire game, usually by 8-10-12 points. They looked beaten when the deficit grew to 14 points with less than 7 minutes left, but that’s when they caught fire. They were like a completely different team. It was amazing (a-maize-ing?)
After the tight, scary game vs. Kansas, we were expecting more of the same vs. Florida. Wrong. UM came out on fire, and got ahead 13-0 after just 3 minutes! The lead got as high as 24 points (41-17) in the 1st half, before sinking to “only” 17 points (47-30) at halftime. Florida staged a mini-rally (6-0) to get the lead back down to 11 points (47-36) in the first 2:30 of the 2nd half, but Michigan pushed the lead back up to 18 points (56-38) in the next 3 minutes, and never let it get below 14 points again. UM won going away, and it was an easy victory. All 15 players got to play, and even the senior scrubs scored on Florida. It was lots of fun.
Time for the stats, and they’re very interesting. In the Kansas game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (35-for-71 = 49.3%), and not too bad from 3-point range (8-for-23 = 34.8%). They shot pretty poorly from the free-throw line (9-for-17 = 52.9%), but they won the rebounding battle (38-35) and the turnover battle (10-13). Interestingly, Kansas shot better in all 3 phases of the game (overall: 36-for-66 = 54.5%, 3-pointers: 6-for-16 = 37.5%, free throws: 7-for-10 = 70.0%), but the extra possessions from rebounds and turnovers were enough to give UM the narrow victory. Michigan shot much better in the Florida game. Overall, they shot pretty well (30-for-65 = 46.2%), but they really shot well from 3-point range (10-for-19 = 52.6%). They shot free throws better (9-for-13 = 69.2%), but they narrowly lost the rebounding battle (35-36) and narrowly won the turnover battle (11-13). The big difference in this game was defense: they held Florida to 41.1% (23-for-56) overall shooting, and 20.0% (2-for-10) 3-point shooting.
Looking at the individual stats, 3 of the 5 starters hit double figures in both games:
All 5 starters hit double figures in the Kansas game, but only 3 of them did it in the Florida game. Here’s how the other 2 starters did:
The bench players didn’t play much vs. Kansas, but everyone played at the end of the Florida blowout. Here’s how they did:
Yay! More bench scoring: 21 points in 2 games. It was great to get contributions from Albrecht and Horford. Michigan still needs more from LeVert and Morgan.
This is it: the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. It’s a great honor for Michigan to have made it this far, and they have exceeded most people’s expectations, but there’s no reason they can’t win one or two more games. This week, there is only one game, since the National Semifinal games are played on Saturday (04/06/2013) and the National Championship game is next Monday (04/08/2013). Michigan plays the #4 seed from the East Region, Syracuse, on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. EDT on CBS, in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (GA). If they win that game, they will play the winner of the (#1 Midwest) Louisville vs. (#9 West) Wichita State game.
Once again, Michigan matches up pretty well against any of the other 3 teams in Atlanta. Certainly, Louisville is the favorite to win it all, but Michigan has the talent to beat them. If they keep playing at the high level they’ve shown through the first 4 games, they’ll do fine. As I said several times in the last couple weeks, Michigan has the talent to win the whole tournament, and the youth and inexperience to lose to any team. We’ll just have to watch the games to see how they do.
Check back next week to see what happened, and why.
NIT: (#3) Iowa beat (#1) Virginia, 75-64
NCAA East Region: (#1) Indiana lost to (#4) Syracuse, 61-50
NCAA West Region: (#2) Ohio State beat (#6) Arizona, 73-70
NCAA Midwest Region: (#3) Michigan State lost to (#2) Duke, 71-61
NCAA South Region: (#4) Michigan beat (#1) Kansas, 87-85 (overtime)
NCAA West Region: (#2) Ohio State lost to (#9) Wichita State, 70-66
NCAA South Region: (#4) Michigan beat (#3) Florida, 79-59
Overall, it was not a good week for the Big Ten. They went 4-3 overall: 3-3 in the NCAA Tournament, and 1-0 in the NIT. Overall, the Big Ten is now 15-6: 12-6 in the NCAA Tournament and 3-0 in the NIT.
There were a few surprises last week:
The Upcoming Week
Of the 5 Big Ten teams that started last week in the post-season tournaments, 2 are still alive and playing this week (1 in the NCAA Tournament and 1 in the NIT):
NIT: (#3) Iowa vs. (#2) Maryland
NCAA: (South Region #4) Michigan vs. (East Region #4) Syracuse
It’s been a while since I updated the UM/MSU National Championship Comparison. Since Michigan just won another national championship (the 54th team championship in school history), this time in Men’s Swimming & Diving on Saturday (03/30/2013), it’s time to update the count since 1989:
National Championships Since 1989
Men’s Swimming & Diving
By the way, just for comparison, MSU has won a total of 26 national championships in school history, less than half as many as UM.
The (#10) University of Michigan men’s basketball team is going to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament! It’s been 19 years (1993-1994) since UM made it past the first week in the Big Dance, but the long wait it finally over. Michigan, the #4 seed in the South Region, played two games in the tournament last week, both in the Palace of Auburn Hills (MI), and they won both of them. On Thursday (03/21/2013), they beat the #13 seed, South Dakota State (SDSU), 71-56, then on Saturday (03/23/2013), they beat the #5 seed, Virginia Commonwealth (VCU), 78-53. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 28-7.
After last season’s embarrassing loss to Ohio University in the first game (2nd round) of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan wasn’t about to take any team lightly this season. On paper, SDSU looked like a prime candidate to upset UM in the first game. The game was close most of the way, with Michigan finally pulling away late in the 2nd half. Still, in a single-elimination tournament, any win is a good win. Survive and advance.
The VCU game was much more interesting. VCU runs a kamikaze, all-out full-court press for the entire game, something they call “Havoc”. Remember the Arkansas game back in December, with their “40 Minutes Of Hell”? This was supposed to be much worse. VCU leads the nation in turnovers forced per possession, and Michigan leads the nation in fewest turnovers committed per possession. Something had to give. Guess which one? That’s right: Michigan had a few more turnovers than usual, but well below the average that VCU usually caused. Watching “Havoc” was interesting and kind of impressive, but Michigan handled it with poise and composure, and won the game decisively. They never let the press get to them, and they stayed focused and worked hard to bring the ball across mid-court under control every possession. It was very impressive. The downside to running a full-court press is that it’s hard to get back on defense once the other team breaks the press, and that’s exactly what happened in this game. Michigan broke the press most of the time, and got fairly easy baskets on many of those possessions. Even when they didn’t get a basket right off the press break, they had an easier time than usual in their half-court offense, since VCU had short, fast players in the lineup for “Havoc” purposes. These short, fast players were well-suited for pressing and stealing, but not for defending the post. So, that’s where Michigan attacked, and it worked. More about that below, in the individual player stats.
First, let’s look at the team stats. In the SDSU game, Michigan shot pretty well overall (28-for-55 = 50.9%), and they shot well from 3-point range (9-for-20 = 45.0%). They didn’t shoot many free throws, but they hit a decent number of them (6-for-9 = 66.7%). They tied in the rebounding battle (29-29), and they won the turnover battle (9-12). The stats for the VCU game aren’t quite as impressive, but they’re not bad. Michigan’s overall shooting was good (31-for-60 = 51.7%), but their 3-point shooting was mediocre (6-for-20 = 30.0%). They didn’t shoot many free throws, but they made them count (10-for-11 = 90.9%). The big difference was rebounding, where UM won 41-24. Those 17 extra possessions really helped. UM lost the turnover battle, but just barely: 12-11.
The interesting stories for both games are found in the individual stats. Individually, 3 players hit double figures in both games last week:
One player hit double figures in only one game last week:
The remaining starter didn’t hit double figures in either game:
The bench players had a terrible week at scoring:
That’s 5 points of bench scoring, which is miserable. Michigan needs much more bench scoring to keep winning the tournament, especially from Albrecht, Horford, LeVert, and Morgan.
The NCAA Tournament (bracket) rolls on this week, and Michigan is still alive. They are in the Sweet Sixteen, and they play their next game(s) in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. On Friday (03/29/2013, 7:37 p.m. EDT, TBS) they play (#1 seed) Kansas. If they win that game, they play again on Sunday (03/31/2013) against the winner of the (#3) Florida vs. (#15) Florida Gulf Coast game. The Sunday game would be for a spot in the Final Four.
Michigan actually matches up pretty well against any of the other 3 teams in Arlington. The games will certainly be tough and tense, but if Michigan plays at the level they showed us last week in Auburn Hills, they’ll do fine. As I said several times in the last couple weeks, Michigan has the talent to win the whole tournament, and the youth and inexperience to lose to any team. We’ll just have to watch the games to see how they do.
Check back next week to see what happened, and why.
NIT: (#3) Iowa beat (#6) Indiana State, 68-52
NCAA Midwest Region: (#3) Michigan State beat (#14) Valparaiso, 65-54
NCAA South Region: (#4) Michigan beat (#13) South Dakota State, 71-56
NCAA East Region: (#1) Indiana beat (#16) James Madison, 83-62
NCAA West Region: (#2) Ohio State beat (#15) Iona, 95-70
NCAA West Region: (#5) Wisconsin lost to (#12) Mississippi (Ole Miss), 57-46
NCAA East Region: (#7) Illinois beat (#10) Colorado, 57-49
NCAA South Region: (#11) Minnesota beat (#6) UCLA, 83-63
NIT: (#3) Iowa beat (#7) Stony Brook, 75-63
NCAA Midwest Region: (#3) Michigan State beat (#6) Memphis, 70-48
NCAA South Region: (#4) Michigan beat (#5) Virginia Commonwealth (VCU), 78-53
NCAA East Region: (#1) Indiana beat (#9) Temple, 58-52
NCAA West Region: (#2) Ohio State beat (#10) Iowa State, 78-75
NCAA East Region: (#7) Illinois lost to (#2) Miami (FL), 63-59
NCAA South Region: (#11) Minnesota lost to (#3) Florida, 78-64
Overall, the Big Ten went 11-3: 9-3 in the NCAA Tournament and 2-0 in the NIT.
There were a couple surprises last week:
The Upcoming Week
Of the 8 Big Ten teams that started last week in the post-season tournaments, 5 are still alive and playing this week (4 in the NCAA Tournament and 1 in the NIT):
NIT: (#3) Iowa vs. (#1) Virginia
NCAA East Region: (#1) Indiana vs. (#4) Syracuse
NCAA West Region: (#2) Ohio State vs. (#6) Arizona
NCAA Midwest Region: (#3) Michigan State vs. (#2) Duke
NCAA South Region: (#4) Michigan vs. (#1) Kansas
NCAA: Survivors from Thursday’s games.
NCAA: Survivors from Friday’s games.