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Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Taking charge: Michigan 73 – Tennessee 71

Friday, March 28th, 2014


Win the Game vs Tennessee 3-28-14(MGoBlue.com)

The pregame build up for Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with 11th-seeded Tennessee centered around the Volunteers’ physical advantage with bruising big men Jarnell Stokes and Jaronne Maymon. Michigan’s overlooked center, senior Jordan Morgan, took notice and outplayed both of them, leading the Wolverines to a 73-71 victory.

“We heard all week about they had mismatches and how we couldn’t guard them inside,” Morgan said. “I guess people forgot we play in the Big Ten and we won the Big Ten outright.”

Morgan’s defense held Stokes to just 11 points and six rebounds — well below both his season and NCAA Tournament averages — while piling up 15 points and seven boards of his own. But his biggest play was also the most controversial. With nine seconds remaining and Michigan clinging to a one point lead, Tennessee inbounded the ball to Stokes along the baseline. As Stokes made his move to the basket, Morgan stood strong, drawing the contact and falling backward. Charge was called and Michigan survived.

Jordan Morgan won the battle of big men with 15 points and seven rebounds (MGoBlue.com)

Jordan Morgan won the battle of big men with 15 points and seven rebounds (MGoBlue.com)

“They set a screen for him to come open, so I knew that the play was going to be for him,” Morgan said of the play. “I just know he likes to play bully ball and was just in a stance ready. I don’t know, I just was there. That’s just something I do. I take charges. That’s just what I do.”

Despite Morgan’s strong play, the game didn’t have to come down to the wire had Michigan not blown a sizable lead. The Wolverines led 60-45 with 10:56 to play and seemed to be cruising into the Elite Eight. But Tennessee started chipping away at the lead. An 8-0 run cut the lead to seven before a Morgan jumper ended a scoring drought of 3:30.

Tennessee cut the lead to six, but Derrick Walton Jr. answered with his second three of the game. Layups by Josh Richardson and Jordan McRae sandwiched a Stauskas layup and then Stauskas nailed a three to bring Michigan’s lead back to double digits at ten. But Tennessee wasn’t done.

Back-to-back Tennessee baskets brought it within six, and after a Morgan dunk, the Volunteers got a three-point play by McRae. After a Michigan turnover Richardson got a layup to pull the Vols within three with just 24 seconds left. Spike Albrecht inbounded the ball to Glenn Robinson III along the sideline, but he had nowhere to go with it and threw it away. Tennessee once again capitalized with a layup by McRae. Suddenly, Michigan’s lead was down to one with 10 seconds left.

Albrecht threw the inbounds pass to Caris LeVert, who stepped on the end line as he tried to turn and run. Now, not only was Michigan up just one, but Tennessee had possession and a chance to win. But that’s when Morgan stepped in to draw the charge. Michigan got the ball to Stauskas, who was sent to the free throw line and made the front end of the one-and-one. Tennessee’s last-ditch heave didn’t fall and Michigan survived.

Michigan shot 55.1 percent for the game, but 61.5 percent in the first half, which helped the Wolverines open up the big lead. Michigan led by 11 at the half. They cooled off in the second, shooting “just” 47.8 percent. After a 7-of-9 three-point performance in the first half, Michigan made 4-of-11 in the second half.

As expected, Michigan lost the rebounding battle, but the 28-26 difference was much closer than the pregame talk predicted. The main area of concern is an uncharacteristic 13 turnovers for a Michigan squad that committed just four against Texas in the Round of 32.

Morgan led Michigan with 15 points and seven rebounds. Stauskas added 14 on 5-of-12 shooting and 3-of-8 three-point shooting. Robinson III continued his solid play in the tournament with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with five rebounds. LeVert was the fourth Michigan player in double figures with 10 points, while Walton Jr. was one shy with nine. Zak Irvin went 3-of-3 off the bench from downtown to also contribute nine.

Michigan remains in Indianapolis through the weekend and will face the winner of the Kentucky-Louisville match for a trip to the Final Four. The game will take place at 5:05 p.m. ET and be televised by CBS.

Three Stars

***Jordan Morgan***
15 points (7-of-9 FG, 1-of-1 FT), 7 rebounds (pne offensive), one block, one steal, one turnover in 32 minutes

**Jordan McRae (UT)**
24 points (9-of-18 FG, 0-of-5 3PT, 6-of-11 FT), six rebounds (two offensive), four block, one steal, two assists in 38 minutes

*Glenn Robinson III*
13 points (5-of-8FG, 1-of-1 3PT, 1-of-2 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), two assists, one steal, two turnovers in 39 minutes

Quick Hitters

 Michigan broke the program record for made three-pointers in a season, surpassing the previous mark of 305, which was set in 2008-09. The Wolverines currently have 312 on the season.

 This Michigan team currently ranks eighth in program history for points scored in a season. The Wolverines moved up from 11th, surpassing the 1996-97, 1997-98, and 1991-92 teams.

 Michigan is now 8-0 this season when Jordan Morgan scores in double figures and 13-2 when Nik Stasukas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III all score in double figures.

 Jordan Morgan currently ranks first all-time in single season (68.80 percent) and career (62.71 percent) field goal percentage. He leads Maceo Baston by 0.64 and 0.04 percent, respectively.

 Nik Stauskas surpassed the 600-point mark on the season, the 21st time a Michigan player has accomplished the feat. Stauskas is also now just one three-pointer away from tying Louis Bullock (1995-97) for the most made threes in the first two seasons.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 5-8 1-1 2-2 2 3 5 0 13 2 2 0 1 39
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 2-2 2-2 3-3 0 6 6 3 9 4 3 0 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 5-12 3-8 1-2 0 0 0 1 14 2 1 0 0 37
52 Jordan Morgan* 7-9 0-0 1-1 1 6 7 3 15 0 1 1 1 32
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 2-5 0-0 0 1 1 1 10 5 5 0 3 33
02 Spike Albrecht 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 10
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 1-2 1 3 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 8
21 Zak Irvin 3-5 3-3 0-0 0 0 0 1 9 0 0 0 0 11
Totals 27-49 11-20 8-10 6 20 26 13 73 14 13 1 5 200
Tennessee 30-57 3-11 8-14 11 17 28 13 71 11 7 8 7 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Tennessee

Friday, March 28th, 2014


Michigan vs Tennessee banner
#7/8 (2-seed) Michigan (27-8, 15-3) vs (11-seed) Tennessee (24-12, 11-7)
Friday, Mar. 28 | Indianapolis, Ind. | 7:15 p.m. EST | CBS
Offense
74.0 Points/gm 72.2
(891-1,876) 47.5 Field Goal % 45.1 (897-1,991)
(301-756) 39.8 3-pt FG % 32.6 (202-620)
(508-667) 76.2 Free Throw % 72.2 (605-838)
14.5 FT Made/gm 16.8
31.7 Reb/gm 38.8
14.3 Assists/gm 12.8
9.3 Turnovers/gm 10.6
Defense
64.6 Points/gm 61.4
(844-1,920) 44.0 Field Goal % 41.0 (796-1,942)
(191-610) 31.3 3-pt FG % 33.8 (181-536)
31.2 Opp. Reb/gm 30.1
5.2 Steals/gm 5.1
2.5 Blocks/gm 4.6
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (17.4), LeVert/Robinson (13.1) Points/gm Jordan McRae (18.6), Jarnell Stokes (15.2)
Jordan Morgan (5.0), Caris LeVert (4.5) Reb/gm Jarnell Stokes (10.7), Jeronne Maymon (8.3)

___________________________________________________________________________________

In Michigan’s NCAA Tournament opener against Wofford, the Wolverines advanced despite a sluggish performance. They avoided a letdown in the second game against Texas, opening up a large lead thanks to hot first half shooting and then staving off a Longhorn run to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season. Now, Michigan faces a tougher test in a surging Tennessee squad.

Related
Sam’s 3 thoughts: Tennessee
Inside the Numbers: Previewing the Midwest Regional — Louisville/UK edition
Inside the Numbers: Previewing the Midwest Regional — Tennessee edition
Inside the Numbers: It sure is sweet
M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge: Tennessee

Tennessee enters with a 24-12 overall record and went 11-7 in the nation’s seventh-best conference (according to conference RPI), the SEC. The Vols have an interesting resume with a 35-point win over Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the East Region, but also three losses — including one by 26 — to South Region No. 1 seed Florida. UT split a pair of non-conference games with Xavier and lost by 11 to Wichita State, but also lost twice to Texas A&M.

Coming into this matchup, Tennessee has won eight of nine, the lone blemish a seven point loss to Florida in the SEC Tournament semifinal. The late-season push got the Vols into the NCAA Tournament First Four where they held off a team Michigan is very familiar with, Iowa, in overtime. They then cruised past six-seed UMass and 14-seed Mercer by 19 and 20 points, respectively. 

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Jordan McRae (G) 32.0 18.6 43.3 35.9 80.1 3.4 2.5 2.1 0.9 0.7
Jarnell Stokes (F) 32.4 15.2 53.0 00.0 69.7 10.7 2.0 2.1 0.9 0.6
Josh Richardson (G) 30.1 10.1 46.6 33.7 79.3 2.9 1.5 1.0 0.8 0.7
Jeronne Maymon (F) 28.6 9.9 53.8 00.0 68.4 8.3 1.1 1.8 0.4 0.7
Antonio Barton (G) 25.4 7.7 37.2 33.8 68.9 2.3 2.1 0.9 0.1 0.6
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Armani Moore (G) 12.7 3.0 46.2 28.0 58.6 2.1 0.6 0.3 0.6 0.4
Darius Thompson (G) 16.5 2.6 38.8 19.5 73.3 2.0 2.4 0.9 0.2 1.0
Derek Reese (G) 10.7 2.3 32.1 25.7 69.2 3.0 0.3 0.5 0.4 0.2
A.J. Davis (G/F) 9.4 1.3 40.0 37.5 22.2 1.6 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.2

 For a detailed breakdown of Tennessee’s personnel and statistics read Drew’s Inside the Numbers: Previewing the Midwest Regional — Tennessee post. 

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 12 at Xavier L 63-67
Nov. 16 USC Upstate W 74-65
Nov. 18 Citadel W 86-60
Nov. 22 Tennessee State W 88-67
Nov. 28 UTEP* L 70-78
Nov. 29 Xavier* W 64-49
Nov. 30 Wake Forest W 82-63
Dec. 7 Tennessee Tech W 84-63
Dec. 14 at #12 Wichita State L 61-70
Dec. 18 N.C. State L 58-65
Dec. 23 Morehead State W 82-67
Dec. 30 Virginia W 87-52
Jan. 4 Tusculum W 98-51
Jan. 7 at LSU W 68-50
Jan. 11 Texas A&M L 56-57
Jan. 15 Auburn W 78-67
Jan. 18 #13 Kentucky L 66-74
Jan. 22 Arkansas W 81-74
Jan. 25 at #6 Florida L 41-67
Jan. 29 Ole Miss W 86-70
Feb. 1 at Alabama W 76-59
Feb. 5 at Vanderbilt L 60-64
Feb. 8 South Carolina W 72-53
Feb. 11 #3 Florida L 58-67
Feb. 15 at Missouri L 70-75
Feb. 18 Georgia W 67-48
Feb. 22 at Texas A&M L 65-68 OT
Feb. 26 Mississippi State W 75-68
Mar. 1 Vanderbilt W 76-38
Mar. 5 at Auburn W 82-54
Mar. 8 Missouri W 72-45
Mar. 14 South Carolina^ W 59-44
Mar. 15 #1 Florida^ L 49-56
Mar. 19 (11) Iowa# W 78-65 OT
Mar. 21 (6) UMass# W 86-67
Mar. 23 (14) Mercer# W 83-63
*Battle 4 Atlantis, ^SEC Tournament, #NCAA Tournament

Tennessee 4 factors

The Series

Michigan is 5-5 all-time against Tennessee with each team winning every matchup on the other’s home court and Michigan winning the only previous NCAA Tournament meeting. The last time the two met was in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Second Round when Michigan defeated the Volunteers 75-45. Michigan also beat Tennessee in Ann Arbor 87-52 on Dec. 2, 1985; 78-74 on Dec. 7, 1974; 71-63 on Dec. 1, 1965; and 70-60 on Dec. 19, 1959. The Wolverines lost to Tennessee in Knoxville 81-77 on Dec. 29, 1984; 82-81 on Dec. 6, 1975; 72-54 on Dec. 1, 1966; 75-64 on Dec. 3, 1960; and 80-66 on Dec. 6, 1958. 

While Michigan has experience playing in Indianapolis, this will mark the first time Michigan has played at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Wolverines are 9-9 all-time in Indianapolis, but all 18 games, including three this season, were at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (formerly Conseco Fieldhouse) in the Big Ten Tournament. 

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Tennessee

Friday, March 28th, 2014


Michigan-Tennessee header_NCAAT

This year’s Michigan basketball team has been called many things — too young, too soft, too small — and perhaps some of those issues will creep up before the end of the tournament. But right now, the Wolverines are something else — just plain good.

After cruising through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, however, Michigan is still not getting the attention that one might think it deserves — perhaps because of a lack of drama in their clinical victories — and I’m sure that is completely fine with John Beilein and his players. After all, they’ve gotten quite used to getting written off all season long. Yet tonight at 7:15 on CBS, the Wolverines will continue their quest for another Final Four against the upstart, quasi-Cinderalla 11th-seeded Tennessee Volunteers, the only team in the field with three tournament wins to date.

One more win, and Michigan will find itself in the Elite Eight for the second straight season. One more win, and the Maize and Blue can smell the end of the Road to Dallas. One more win, and perhaps one or two doubters will believe.

Here are my three thoughts on the showdown:

Fight on the Glass: It’s no secret that Michigan is far from a bruising inside team. Once Mitch McGary went down in December, any notion of a two-big style went out the window. The Wolverines win with other-worldly shooting and an all-around incredibly efficient offense. In most games, they simply out-score the competition while figuring that enough of their shots will fall that losing the rebounding battle won’t ruin their chances.

UT coach Cuonzo Martin played with Glenn Robinson's dad at Purdue (Grant Halverson, Getty Images)

UT coach Cuonzo Martin played with Glenn Robinson III’s dad at Purdue (Grant Halverson, Getty Images)

For now, that likely has Tennessee licking its chops. The Volunteers, under third-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, do one thing very well: rebound. Tennessee boasts a pair of 6’8″, 250-pound brutes in Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon that are, according to KenPom, both top-30 offensive rebounders in the country. Neither is a slouch on the defensive glass, but the Volunteers are at their best when the two big boys are feasting on misses and easy put-backs. Stokes is really the one that gets things going, and his three monster double-doubles in the Big Dance, totaling 61 points and 45 rebounds, are the reason Tennessee is still alive.

This evening, Michigan will have to at least limit the two beasts on the offensive glass, but they do not have to be world beaters. Against Texas, Michigan actually allowed the Longhorns to rebound more than half of their own misses but still ran away with a comfortable 14-point win.

Dare Them to Shoot: Michigan’s relative ineptitude defensively this season has been in allowing far too many uncontested drives and layups. In a few games, an opposing star player has really gone off from downtown, but the Wolverines have generally been solid against the three-pointer, only allowing opponents to make 31.3 percent from deep.

Against Tennessee, however, Michigan will be happy to sag off to protect the paint and dare the Volunteers to jack up shots. On the season, Tennessee is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, as they make less than 32 percent of their attempts beyond the arc, and it has gotten even worse in the tourney. In their three victories, all by at least 13 points (but one in OT), the Volunteers have made a miserable 22.8 percent (13-of-57) of their triple tries, yet they are still attempting almost 20 deep ones per night. Michigan, on the other hand, has made eight more threes in one fewer game than Tennessee while attempting 12 fewer shots (21-of-45, 46.7 percent).

The two Volunteers Michigan will have to keep an eye on outside the arc are senior Jordan McRae and junior Josh Richardson, who shoot 35.8 percent and 34.4 percent, respectively. A third player, senior Memphis transfer Antonio Barton, knocked down four of nine triples in a blowout win over Mercer last weekend, but is just shooting 32.6 percent from deep on the year. To give these stats some contrast, Tennessee’s best three-point shooter would be Michigan’s sixth-best.

Triple Double-Double Time?: Jordan Morgan does not want to go home. Michigan’s only senior, who said as much after the Wolverines dismantled Texas last Saturday, has shown that sentiment just as strongly on the court, where he has recorded two straight double-doubles and three in his last six games. Morgan, with a very quiet 25 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, and three steals in Milwaukee, has been one of the tournament’s most unsung heroes. If his stellar play continues, people will eventually take notice, but he has made it clear thus far that he’d rather simply prove people wrong.

Tonight’s primetime matchup, the first game of this year’s Sweet Sixteen, will provide Morgan with plenty of naysayers. Certainly Stokes’s rising star will fuel Morgan’s fire even more, and if the native Detroiter can outplay his counterpart on the way to a third straight double-double and second straight Elite Eight, there will be little ignoring his worth.

Prediction: To be completely honest, I think Michigan has been overlooked by many pundits so far in this tournament and Tennessee has been a bit over-hyped at the same time. Tennessee needed overtime to get by a crumbling Iowa team before rolling through overrated Massachusetts and 14th-seeded Mercer, and has yet to face a serious test. John Beilein’s offense could do serious damage against this 12-loss SEC squad. If Michigan continues to shoot the ball well, and there is little reason to believe they won’t, the Wolverines should win by double digits again. I like the Maize and Blue behind another monster performance from Nik Stauskas, 77-67.

Glenn Robinson III boosting Michigan in March

Thursday, March 27th, 2014


GRIII block vs Texas(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Throughout Michigan’s magical run to the 2014 outright Big Ten Championship, players like Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert stepped up and carried John Beilein’s team. In the paint, Senior Jordan Morgan returned to his old form after Mitch McGary underwent back surgery.

All season, the eyes of the college basketball world lingered on these Michigan stars, and Glenn Robinson III flew under the radar.

It seems more than absurd to suggest that such an athletic and exciting player could go unnoticed in college basketball, but Robinson does just that. Despite the weekly highlight dunks and displays of freakish athletic ability, experts labelled Robinson largely as an underachiever, playing first in the shadows of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. and now those of Stauskas and LeVert.

But the former five-star recruit recently stepped up his production, leading the Wolverines to their second straight Sweet 16.

GRIII has averaged 14 points and six rebounds in the two NCAA Tournament games so far (MGoBlue.com)

GRIII has averaged 14 points and six rebounds in the two NCAA Tournament games so far (MGoBlue.com)

In two NCAA Tournament games last weekend, Robinson averaged 14 points and six rebounds for a team that struggled to find its offense against Wofford and desperately needed rebounds against a much bigger Texas team.

Robinson, often criticized for emitting a peaceful, even careless demeanor throughout his college career, appeared to take a page out of his best friend and teammate McGary’s book in 2014. McGary played his best basketball of last season during the Big Dance and gained preseason All-American honors largely because of that.

This season, Robinson struggled with consistency and even disappeared for periods of time, including a two-point effort in the blowout loss at Iowa and 0-of-3 shooting performance in a loss to Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Classic.

When the sophomore struggles on offense Michigan turns into a different team. In five of the team’s eight losses this season Robinson failed to score in double figures.

Since the middle of February, however, he has maintained the most consistent stretch of his young career, scoring at least 10 points in 10 of 11 games. As a result, Michigan finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak, secured a Big Ten title, played in the Big Ten Championship game and finds itself back in the Sweet 16.

Robinson garnered his biggest headlines before stepping foot in Ann Arbor, and has played the role of sidekick ever since. But behind two standout performances by the sophomore on the sport’s biggest stage, the Maize and Blue faithful watched two blowout wins in a weekend that saw powerhouse teams like Duke, Kansas and even undefeated Wichita State fall.

What allowed Michigan to coast in the second and third rounds? The quiet production of Robinson, who did a little bit of everything for the Wolverines, certainly helped. If Michigan hopes to advance to Sunday’s Elite 8, Robinson will have to play a big role in slowing down a hot Tennessee team.

Inside the Numbers: Previewing the Midwest Regional – Tennessee edition

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014


Tennessee post-Mercer win(Wade Rackley, UT Athletics)

Yesterday, “Inside the Numbers” provided a historical analysis of Michigan’s extraordinary success in the Sweet Sixteen. It was a fun post that allowed Michigan fans to reminisce and hope that the good times will continue to roll this weekend. However, with Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen contest only two days away, it is time to start looking ahead at the obstacles that stand between Michigan and a trip to a second straight Final Four.

This weekend, there will be three teams traveling to the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis along with No. 2-seed Michigan: No. 4-seed Louisville, No. 8-seed Kentucky, and No. 11-seed Tennessee. The Wolverines will battle the Volunteers on Friday night in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Wolverines defeat Tennessee, they will then play the winner of the Louisville-Kentucky matchup in the Elite Eight.

It is important to note the difficulty of maneuvering through this regional. Many fans may see that the other three teams in the Midwest Regional are only a No. 4 seed, No. 8 seed, and No. 11 seed and think that this will be a cakewalk for No. 2-seed Michigan. This would be foolish. All three of these schools are much better than their seeds indicate. In fact, advanced statistics show that the Midwest Regional is the toughest remaining regional of the four.

KenPom Rankings by Region

All four teams in the Midwest Regional are ranked in the top 13 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, which use an advanced algorithm to rank teams based on their adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Every other region has at least two teams ranked outside Pomeroy’s top 15. Further, the average Pomeroy rank of the Midwest Regional is 8.00, while it is 11.50 for the West Regional, 12.75 for the East Regional, and 22.50 for the South Regional. Michigan’s path to the Final Four is far from a cakewalk.

With the groundwork set that the Midwest Regional is the toughest to win of the four regionals, here is an in-depth scouting report of Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen opponent, Tennessee, in Part One. Part Two, which will be posted later today, will include in-depth scouting reports of Michigan’s potential opponents in the Elite Eight, Louisville and Kentucky, should U-M defeat UT.

Tennessee: 24-12 (11-7 SEC) | Seed: No. 11 | Pomeroy Rank: No. 6

Overview: Tennessee is weird. On one hand, Tennessee lost double-digit games in the regular season and finished with an 11-7 record in the nation’s fifth-best conference. This led to the Volunteers being a No. 11 seed and one of the last four bubble teams to make the NCAA Tournament. On the other hand, the computers are infatuated with Tennessee. The Volunteers are No. 6 in the nation in Pomeroy’s rankings and actually projected by Pomeroy to beat Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen despite the discrepancy in seeds. How is this possible? The “Resume” section below will attempt to answer.

The difference in Tennessee’s seed and Pomeroy rank make it very difficult to peg just how good the Volunteers are. Is Tennessee actually the sixth-best team in the nation? Probably not. But the Volunteers certainly are playing some of their best basketball at the moment. After upending an underrated No. 11-seed Iowa in overtime in the First Four, Tennessee steamrolled No. 6-seed Massachusetts by 19 points and No. 14-seed Mercer by 20 points to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Resume: 1-5 vs. Pomeroy Top 25; 2-5 vs. Pomeroy Top 50; 11-9 vs. Pomeroy Top 100; three Losses to Pomeroy Sub-100

The reason why Tennessee barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament is that the Volunteers have a very poor record against the best teams in the nation. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Tennessee had a 1-5 record against both the top 25 and top 50 of Pomeroy’s rankings. The Volunteers did not add that second top 50 win until they beat Iowa in the First Four. Three of those losses came at the hands of the Florida Gators, which are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, with the other two against Wichita State and Kentucky. Additionally, Tennessee has three bad losses to teams ranked outside Pomeroy’s top 100, which includes being swept by Texas A&M and a road loss to Vanderbilt.

Yet Tennessee is still No. 6 in Pomeroy’s rankings because of the margin of victory in its games. Tennessee’s lone top 50 win prior to the NCAA Tournament was a 35-point smack down of No. 1-seed Virginia. Also, in SEC play, the Volunteers’ efficiency margin was plus-0.135 points per possession, which was second in the SEC. For comparison, Michigan’s efficiency margin in Big Ten play was plus-0.107 points per possession. Yes, the Big Ten was far superior to the SEC, but Tennessee’s efficiency margin indicates that UT won its games in blowout fashion while losing many down-to-the-wire contests.

Four Factors:

Tennessee Four Factors

Offensive Profile: Tennessee has the 16th-best offense in the nation in terms of adjusted efficiency and has shown why in the NCAA Tournament. In its three NCAA Tournament games, the Volunteers have scored no less than 78 points in each one, averaging a superb 1.286 points per possession in all three.

However, Tennessee is an average shooting team at best. UT is ranked only No. 170 in the nation in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) with an eFG% of 49.6 percent. This is because the Volunteers, like Texas, are a poor three-point shooting team. Tennessee is No. 282 in the nation in three-point shooting, making only 31.9 percent. The Volunteers have only two consistent shooters from behind the arc. The first is Jordan McRae, who has made 77-of-215 threes for a team-best 35.8 percent. The second is Josh Richardson, who has converted 34.4 percent of his threes this season. Yet Richardson has slumped from outside recently, draining only 3-of-22 (13.6 pct.) threes in his past seven games. The only other Volunteer likely to shoot from three-point range is Antonio Barton, who has attempted 141 threes this season. But Barton has made just a tad more than 32 percent of them, so he is not nearly as dangerous as the other two.

Related
Inside the Numbers: It sure is sweet
The M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge: Tennessee

This is why Tennessee is most efficient offensively when it tries to work the ball inside to its best player, Jarnell Stokes. Stokes is UT’s 6’8″ center who is a beast around the basket. About 50 percent of Stokes’ shots are either at the rim, meaning they are dunks, layups, or tips, while the other 50 percent are two-point jumpers. However, in this case, two-point jumpers are short shots about three to six feet from the hoop, not 15-foot pull-up shots. Stokes is very efficient around the basket, too. His eFG% at the rim is 68.5 percent. Expect Tennessee to feed Stokes—who is averaging 20.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament—in the post early and often.

However, Tennessee’s low-post offense is not even its biggest offensive strength. Like Texas, the Volunteers’ offense thrives on crashing the glass. The Volunteers are the fourth-best offensive-rebounding team in the nation, corralling 39.8 percent of their missed shots. In their last game against Mercer, the Volunteers rebounded 18 of their 30 misses for an absurd offensive rebounding rate of 60 percent. Most of UT’s offensive rebounding comes from it two starting post players—Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. Both Stokes and Maymon are in the top 30 in the nation in individual offensive rebounding. In UT’s three NCAA Tournament games, Stokes and Maymon have averaged a combined seven offensive rebounds per game. Expect those two to be all over the glass on Friday night.

Unlike Texas, Tennessee plays at very slow pace similar to Michigan. The Volunteers’ adjusted tempo is only 62.8 possessions, which is the 325th-fastest out of 351 NCAA D-1 college hoops teams. Tennessee, which has a very short bench, likes to be patient and set up its half-court offense. Only 21.8 percent of UT’s initial shots are in transition, which is No. 260 in the nation. The Volunteers are not looking to run their opponents. They would much rather run down the shot clock and beat their opponents with execution and brute force.

Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon both rank in the top 30 nationally in offensive rebounding (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon both rank in the top 30 nationally in offensive rebounding (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)

Defensive Profile: Tennessee also is an excellent team on defense as well, ranking No. 18 in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Volunteers allowed SEC opponents to score only 0.973 points per possession and have held their three NCAA Tournament opponents to 1.016 points per possession. The key to Tennessee’s defense is that it is very balanced and very good at many different things.

The heart of Tennessee’s defense is inside the paint. Like Texas, the Volunteers do a fantastic job at holding opponents to a subpar shooting percentage from inside the three-point line. Teams have been able to convert only 44.3 percent of their two-pointers against the Volunteers. However, unlike Texas, Tennessee does not do this by jumping at and trying to block every shot around the rim. The Volunteers are very adept at maintaining their ground while contesting two-pointers. This allows Tennessee to rebound 72.5 percent of its opponents’ missed shots, which is 18th-best in the nation, and rarely send opponents to the free-throw line.

Another critical difference between Tennessee and Texas’ defense is that the Volunteers are much, much better at contesting opponents’ three-pointers. Only 27.3 percent of Tennessee’s opponents’ field-goal attempts have been threes. This is the 22nd-lowest rate in the nation. Teams have struggled to launch threes against Tennessee because of the length of its perimeter players. UT’s guards and wings are 6’6″, 6’6″, and 6’2″. These Volunteers use their length to quickly get out on three-point shooters, making it difficult for opponents to find open looks around the three-point line.

One element of Tennessee’s defense that opponents are not concerned with is turnovers. The Volunteers struggle to force their opponents to commit turnovers, forcing them to do so only 16.8 percent of their offensive possessions. Given the strengths of the rest of UT’s defense, it is imperative that UT’s opponents do not commit unforced errors against this defense. Otherwise, those opponents will run into a buzz saw.

Michigan’s Key to Victory: After reading this preview, one may think that Tennessee is the favorite to win the national championship. Obviously, this is not the case. The Volunteers have very good numbers, but they have not been able to record these types of numbers consistently against elite competition, like the Wolverines. Michigan’s skill and talent level will provide many challenges for this Volunteers squad.

There are two keys for Michigan, and both are on the defensive end. Michigan has the third-best offense in the nation and has proven time and time again that it can score against the best of the best. But Michigan will need to win this game on the defensive end of the court.

First, Michigan needs to pack the paint defensively. Tennessee scores most of its points around the bucket and struggles with its perimeter shooting. By packing the paint, the Wolverines will clog up the spacing inside that Stokes will need to operate effectively. Plus, this will tempt the Volunteers’ outside shooters to fire away. This could be very beneficial for Michigan when Richardson has not been able to find his shot from beyond the arc in his past seven games and when Barton loves to chuck from three-point range despite not being very efficient from there.

Second, by packing this paint, this will make it much more difficult for the Volunteers to crash the offensive glass. All five of Michigan’s players will be closer to the rim when Tennessee’s shots go into the air. This will allow the Wolverines to find a Volunteer to box out much easier and help limit Stokes and Maymon’s second-chance opportunities. If Michigan can limit Tennessee’s possessions to one-and-done, U-M will take away the most effective element of UT’s offense. Therefore, it is imperative that Jordan Morgan keeps Stokes at bay and Glenn Robinson III boxes out Maymon on a consistent basis. If this happens, Michigan likely will walk away as the victors.

Part Two of the Midwest Regional Preview on Louisville and Kentucky will be posted later today.

Inside the Numbers: It sure is sweet

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014


Michigan huddle vs Texas(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

It sure is sweet.

On Saturday evening, No. 2-seed Michigan bombed No. 7-seed Texas, 79-65, with a school-record 14 three-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. This is the second straight year and the 13th time in school history that Michigan will participate in the Sweet Sixteen. This also is the seventh time that Michigan has made the Sweet Sixteen when it did so the previous season.

The Wolverines will travel to Indianapolis this weekend, hoping they will be the lone school to survive the Midwest Regional. This will not be an easy challenge. In the Sweet Sixteen, the Wolverines will square off with the underrated No. 11-seed Tennessee Volunteers. With a victory, the Wolverines will play the winner of No. 4-seed Louisville and No. 8-seed Kentucky with a spot in the Final Four at stake.

John Beilein reached the 700-win milestone on Saturday and hopes to continue Michigan's Sweet Sixteen success on Friday (Tom Pennington, Getty Images)

John Beilein reached the 700-win milestone on Saturday and hopes to continue Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen success on Friday (Tom Pennington, Getty Images)

Michigan fans may be wondering what the Wolverines should expect from these three teams. “Inside the Numbers” will provide an in-depth scouting report for each of Tennessee, Louisville, and Kentucky and how Michigan can exploit those teams’ weaknesses tomorrow. Today, “Inside the Numbers” will focus on Michigan’s past performances in the Sweet Sixteen and why they should give fans a reason to be optimistic when the Wolverines and the Volunteers step on the hardwood on Friday night.

Before “Inside the Numbers” does so, a discrepancy needs to be clarified first. As aforementioned, this will be the 13th time that Michigan appears in the Sweet Sixteen. However, the University of Michigan’s Athletic Media Relations’ media guide lists a record for U-M in Sweet Sixteen games which suggests that the Wolverines already have played in the Sweet Sixteen 13 times before this season.

The confusion seems to stem from Michigan’s appearance in the 1948 NCAA Tournament. Prior to 1951, there were only eight teams in the NCAA Tournament, which means there was no “Sweet Sixteen.” After 1951, the NCAA Tournament expanded to 16 teams with the first round labeled as the “regional semifinals,” which now is nicknamed the “Sweet Sixteen.” Yet the media guide labels Michigan’s first game in the 1948 NCAA Tournament as a “regional semifinal” game. The result of this game seems to mistakenly have been added to Michigan’s listed record in the Sweet Sixteen. Therefore, the 1948 NCAA Tournament will not be discussed in this post.

With that discrepancy clarified, “Inside the Numbers” can finally reveal one reason why fans should be optimistic that the Wolverines will defeat the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday night. In its 12 games played in the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan has posted an 11-1 record. Yes, 11-1. This means that Michigan has a 91.7 win percentage in the Sweet Sixteen. Additionally, the Wolverines have won all five of their Sweet Sixteen contests since 1988.

Results of Michigan’s 12 Previous Sweet Sixteen Games

Year

Opponent

Result

Year

Opponent

Result

1964

Loyola

W, 84-80

1988

North Carolina

L, 69-78

1965

Dayton

W, 98-71

1989

North Carolina

W, 92-87

1966

W. Kentucky

W, 80-79

1992

Oklahoma St.

W, 75-72

1974

Notre Dame

W, 77-68

1993

George Wash.

W, 72-64

1976

Notre Dame

W, 80-76

1994

Maryland

W, 78-71

1977

Detroit

W, 86-81

2013

Kansas

W, 87-85 (OT)

Michigan has experienced a tremendous amount of success in the Sweet Sixteen. Only one other NCAA D-1 college basketball team that has made a minimum of five Sweet Sixteen appearances has won a higher percentage of its Sweet Sixteen games than Michigan. That team is Temple, which is 7-0 in the Sweet Sixteen. When the minimum number of Sweet Sixteen appearances is raised to 10 games, a feat 31 schools have achieved, there is no team better than the Wolverines.

Highest Win Percentage in the Sweet Sixteen (Min. 10 Appearances)

Rank

School

Record

Win Pct.

Rank

School

Record

Win Pct.

1

Michigan

11-1

91.67%

9

UCLA

21-10

67.74%

2

North Carolina

24-6

80.00%

10

Ohio St.

10-5

66.67%

3

Kentucky

30-10

75.00%

11

Michigan St.

11-6

64.71%

t-4

Georgetown

8-3

72.73%

12

Illinois

7-4

63.64%

t-4

Oklahoma St.

8-3

72.73%

13

Villanova

10-6

62.50%

6

Duke

19-8

70.37%

14

Cincinnati

8-5

61.54%

7

Kansas St.

11-5

68.75%

15

Connecticut

10-7

58.82%

8

Kansas

19-9

67.86%

16

San Francisco

7-5

58.33%

Among schools that have played in a minimum of 10 Sweet Sixteen games, Michigan is the only school to have won more than 90 percent of them. In fact, the Wolverines are the only such team to have won more than 80 percent of them. Even if Michigan lost to Tennessee on Friday, U-M’s win percentage in the Sweet Sixteen would drop only to 84.62 percent, which would still be high enough to be the best. Although other schools, such as North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas, and UCLA, have more Sweet Sixteen wins, no team has made the most of its Sweet Sixteen appearances than Michigan.

There are two trends that have been established in Michigan’s previous 12 Sweet Sixteen games of which fans should be aware. First, almost all of these Sweet Sixteen games have come down to the wire. Of the previous 12 games Michigan has played in the Sweet Sixteen, all but one of them were decided by single digits. Seven were decided by five points of fewer. The average margin of victory in these games is seven points. It would be fewer if not for Michigan’s 27-point win over Dayton in the 1965 Sweet Sixteen.

Trey Burke's three against Kansas last March kept Michigan's Sweet Sixteen success intact (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)

Trey Burke’s three against Kansas last March kept Michigan’s Sweet Sixteen success intact (Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)

Michigan fans should not expect this to be any different on Friday evening. Generally, games at this stage of the NCAA Tournament pit two equal teams against one another. This definitely applies to the matchup between Michigan and Tennessee. The Volunteers may be only a No. 11 seed, but the computers and advanced statistics view Michigan and Tennessee as equals. So does Vegas, which has the Wolverines as only a 1.5-point favorite over the Vols. Michigan may have beaten Tennessee by 30 points in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but do not expect a repeat result this week.

Second, as aforementioned, this is the seventh time that Michigan has appeared in the Sweet Sixteen one year after doing the same in the previous season. In the previous six such games, the Wolverines never lost. A repeat appearance in the Sweet Sixteen always has led to a victory for the Maize and Blue. There are lots of possible reasons for this: quality of team, quality of opponent, matchups, hot shooting, lucky bounces, etc.

Yet another potential explanation for this phenomenon is experience. When teams appear in the Sweet Sixteen for a second consecutive season, these teams likely have most of the roster intact from the previous season. These players have already dealt with nerves of playing in the Sweet Sixteen and have become accustomed to the high stakes of such a game. Six of Michigan’s eight key contributors participated in last season’s Sweet Sixteen showdown against Kansas—Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Spike Albrecht. It is unlikely that any of these six players will be fazed by the circumstances of Friday’s Sweet Sixteen contest. The same may not be able to be said about the Volunteers, none of whom have appeared in the Sweet Sixteen before.

The one caveat is that historical trends generally have little impact on upcoming games. All trends are broken or snapped at one point or another as teams and rosters change over time. Michigan’s 11-1 record in the Sweet Sixteen does not guarantee that the Wolverines will advance to the Elite Eight on Friday.

However, it is much more reassuring for Michigan fans to hear that their team has been extremely successful in the Sweet Sixteen rather than not. Michigan fans would be much more concerned about U-M’s prospects on Friday if they learned that their team had only a 1-5 record in Sweet Sixteen games. Why a 1-5 record specifically? Because that is Tennessee’s record in the Sweet Sixteen. It sure is sweet.

The M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge: Tennessee

Monday, March 24th, 2014


M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge banner

Michigan knocked off Texas on Saturday afternoon to advance to it second straight Sweet Sixteen. That’s good news for those who are participating in our March Madness Five-Spot Challenge because that means the prize will go up to at least a $30 M Den gift card when the Wolverines face Tennessee on Friday.

BigHouseBrandon had the best score from the Texas game, followed by the Wofford winner, HTTV134. They stand at second and first, respectively overall. Below are the results and updated standings. Remember, this is a cumulative contest that runs for as long as Michigan remains in the tournament.

March Madness Five-Spot Challenge Standings
Place Name Wofford Deviation (pts) Texas Deviation (pts) Total
1 HTTV134 21 (10) 21 (9) 42 (19)
2 BigHouseBrandon 36 (5) 17 (10) 53 (15)
3 Maizenblu62 25 (9) 41 (4) 63 (13)
4 Jim Mackiewicz 29 (7) 36 (5) 65 (12)
5 JustJeepGear.com 48 (1) 21 (9) 69 (10)
6 TexasWolverine 28 (8) 53 (1) 81 (9)
7 kfarmer16 37 (4) 41 (4) 78 (8)
8 GregGoBlue 26 (7) 26 (7)
9 bluwolf77 28 (6) 28 (6)
9 Eisemant 31 (6) 31 (6)
11 spooner_21 38 (3) 47 (2) 85 (5)
12 Matt Wiersum 46 (2) 46 (2)

If you missed the first two games, but still want to play for the Tennessee game and any subsequent games, here are the rules.

How to play: For starters, this isn’t a standard bracket challenge. This challenge will only focus on Michigan’s games. For each game, we will pose five questions, such as “What will be Michigan’s field goal percentage?” or “How many points will Jordan Morgan score?” If you predict Morgan to score 10 points and he only scores four, you get six points (the deviation). The results from all five questions will be totaled and the contestant with the lowest deviation from the actual is the winner.

Prizing: This will be a continual game that runs for as long as Michigan remains in the tournament. There will not be a prize for each game, but instead, an M Den gift card awarded to the overall winner in increments of $10 based on the number of games played. If Michigan loses its first game, it will be a $10 gift card. If the Wolverines advance to Round three, a $20 gift card; Sweet 16, $30; Elite 8, $40; Final Four, $50; and if Michigan makes it to the championship game, the prize will be a $60 gift card. So make sure to enter prior to each Michigan game throughout the tournament if you want to win.

Timing: Below are the questions for Michigan’s next game against Tennessee on Friday. All entries must be received by tip-off (prior to 7:15 p.m. ET). If Michigan wins, the questions for the Elite Eight game will be posted on Saturday morning and you will have until one minute before the start of that game on Sunday to enter, and so on for the rest of the tournament as long as Michigan advances. Results and updated standings will also be posted after each game. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Here are the questions for the Tennessee game:

Examining Michigan’s path through the Midwest Region

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


Michigan team(MGoBlue.com)

March started with a bang for the Michigan Wolverines, as they clinched an outright Big Ten championship during the first week and stormed to the finals in the conference tournament. With an opportunity to enter the Big Dance on an eight-game winning streak, Michigan’s momentum came to a screeching halt when Michigan State took the title with a 14-point win on Sunday.

The Wolverines, who figured to earn a No. 1 seed in the East with a victory, dropped to the sixth overall seed, No. 2 in the Indianapolis region. Michigan’s road to the Final Four looks just as difficult this year as it did during the National Championship game run in 2013.

What will it take for John Beilein’s surprise Big Ten champions to end up in Arlington next month?

Second Round

Wofford logo (15) Wofford | 20-12 (11-5 Southern Conference)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
156 0-1 0-2 0-2 252 10-2

Michigan’s first test comes against a Wofford team making just its third NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Terriers played just one RPI top 25 opponent during the 2013-14 season, a 72-57 loss to VCU on Dec. 17.

Wofford received an NCAA Tournament bid after a surprise run in the Southern Conference tournament. The third-seeded Terriers benefitted from some early upsets, and beat last-seeded The Citadel, seventh-seeded Georgia Southern, and fifth-seeded Western Carolina en route to the title. Wofford’s best win came on Dec. 21, when it beat RPI No. 168 Winthrop.

On paper, Michigan should have no trouble with Wofford. But No. 15 seeds thrived in the past two tournaments. In 2012, Duke and Missouri were upset as No. 2 seeds by Lehigh and Norfolk State, respectively. Then, in 2013, Florida Gulf Coast not only shocked the Georgetown Hoyas, but went on to beat seventh-seeded San Diego State to reach the Sweet 16.

Wofford’s 153 RPI closely mirrors that of Charlotte (151), which handed Michigan its worst loss of the season during the Puerto Rico Classic. Anything can happen in March, so the Wolverines can’t take this major underdog lightly.

Third Round

Texas logo (7) Texas | 23-10 (11-7 Big 12)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
37 3-3 3-5 6-1 65 6-6

If the Wolverines advance to the round of 32, they’ll see either seven-seed Texas or 10-seed Arizona State. After climbing as high as 15th in the AP Poll, the Longhorns limped into the field of 68, losing five of their last eight games. In January, Texas beat four straight top-25 teams, and it ranks as the fourth-best rebounding team in the country, but six losses in the final two months of the regular season took some of the wind out of coach Rick Barnes’s sails.

Arizona Stae logo (10) Arizona State | 21-11 (10-8 Pac-12)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI Top 50 vs. RPI Top 100 SOS Last 12
44 1-3 3-4 4-1 58 6-6

Arizona State struggled even worse than Texas down the stretch, losing three straight games including a 21-point waxing at the hands of Stanford in the first round of the Pac 12 Tournament. The Sun Devils did defeat in-state rival Arizona in double overtime on Valentine’s Day, but proceeded to lose five of seven afterwards.

A Michigan team that won seven of its last eight games holds an enormous advantage in a matchup that will feature a struggling opponent. Only a major upset stands between the Wolverines and a return to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16.

Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen)

Duke logo (3) Duke | 26-8 (13-5 ACC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
7 5-5 1-0 6-1 6 9-3

With two victories in the opening weekend, Michigan will likely earn a rematch with the Duke Blue Devils that won the previous matchup by 10 in Durham during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

These two teams have a way of finding each other throughout the course of every season. Duke survived a two-point upset bid from the eighth-seeded Wolverines in the 2011 tournament and defeated Beilein’s team the following season in the Maui Invitational. Michigan’s last win over Duke came on Dec. 6, 2008 in Crisler Arena, just 15 days after losing to the Blue Devils in the 2K Sports Classic championship.

Duke finished tied for third in the ACC this season and lost to Virginia in the conference championship game. The Blue Devils may represent the toughest obstacle for the Wolverines in the Midwest region, as the battle-tested group went 6-4 against RPI top-25 teams.

If Duke falters during the first weekend, Michigan would likely play Massachusetts, Iowa, or Tennessee.

IowaLogo (12) Iowa| 20-12 (9-9 Big Ten)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
55 2-8 3-1 2-2 44 4-8

Iowa completely fell apart late in the season, losing six of its last seven, but beat Michigan by 18 points in Iowa City in the middle of Big Ten play. At their best, the Hawkeyes played like a top-10 team, but that group completely evaporated and just barely squeaked into the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee logo (12) Tennessee | 21-12 (11-7 SEC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
40 1-5 2-2 4-2 11 7-5

Tennessee, on the other hand, used a five-game winning streak to cement its spot in the tournament before losing a tough battle to Florida in the SEC semifinals. The Volunteers beat just two NCAA Tournament teams this season (Xavier and Virginia) while Michigan won nine of those games. The last meeting came in the first round of the 2011 tournament, when Michigan ran former coach Bruce Pearl out of town with a 30-point drubbing.

UMass logo (6) UMass | 24-8 (10-6 Atlantic 10)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
21 2-0 5-4 6-3 48 7-5

UMass remains more of a mystery after finishing in fifth place in the difficult-to-understand Atlantic 10. Though the league received six bids to the NCAA Tournament, the Minutemen beat just two ranked opponents throughout the season and lost to 12th-place George Mason during conference play.

Should Michigan play against one of these three teams, the Elite Eight would be well within reach.

Regional Finals (Elite Eight)

Wichita State logo (1) Wichita State | 34-0 (18-0 Missouri Valley Conference)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI Top 50 vs. RPI Top 100 SOS Last 12
4 0-0 3-0 7-0 111 12-0

The final test for the Wolverines in their quest for the Final Four could come in many different forms. Wichita State, the only undefeated team in college basketball, looks to return to the Final Four after falling to Louisville in Atlanta last season. The Shockers won all but six of their 34 games this season by double figures, but played just one team seeded better than 10th in the tournament.

Louisville logo (4) Louisville | 29-5 (15-3 AAC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
19 4-3 1-2 4-0 96 11-1

Louisville emerged as a popular pick to reach the Final Four from the Midwest region just one year after winning the national championship. The AAC Champions impressed by winning 12 of their last 13 games and finishing with a 29-5 record.

But the Cardinals didn’t drop to a No. 4 seed for nothing. Louisville played just nine games against RPI top-40 opponents all season and went just 4-5 in those games. In fact, the defending champs may have received a much lower seed if it weren’t for three victories over Connecticut.

Kentucky logo (8) Kentucky | 24-10 (12-6 SEC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
16 1-5 3-1 10-3 2 7-5

There’s a chance Michigan could also see preseason No. 1 Kentucky in the Elite Eight. The young Wildcats lost five of their last 10 games, beat just one top-25 opponent (Louisville), and dropped to a No. 8 seed matched up against Kansas State.

Saint Louis logo (5) Saint Louis | 26-6 (13-3 Atlantic 10)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
26 2-3 3-1 4-1 68 8-4

A final potential matchup would have Michigan and Saint Louis battling for a Final Four trip. The Billikens started the season 25-2 before dropping four of their last five. Saint Louis played two ranked opponents all season, a six-point loss to then-No. 10 Wisconsin on Nov. 26 and a five-point loss to Wichita State on Dec. 1.

No matter which matchups the Wolverines face, the road to Arlington won’t be easy. In what potentially stands as the most difficult bracket in the tournament, Michigan will compete with the only undefeated group in the country, the preseason No. 1 team, the defending national champion and the best coach in college basketball history.

But for a Michigan team that started 6-4 and lost a preseason All-American only to win the Big Ten outright, the Midwest region represents just another step towards the goal of a National Championship.

Your bye week Saturday viewing guide

Friday, October 25th, 2013


Michigan’s second bye week in four weeks provides another great chance to relax, get your fall yardwork done, and ultimately get ready for the final five-week stretch of the season. All five of the next Saturdays feature big-time matchups for Michigan, each of which is a must win if the Wolverines want any chance of winning the Big Ten this season. This stress-free Saturday sets up nicely to scout each of the five teams Michigan has left on its schedule with a nice slate of games. Here’s your viewing guide.

Early games

At noon, two Big Ten games are worth at least casually keeping your eye on. They won’t necessarily be good games, but three of the four teams involved are among Michigan’s next four opponents. Iowa hosts Northwestern (12pm, Big Ten Network) in a battle of 4-3 squads. The Wildcats began the season 4-0 and battled Ohio State punch-for-punch in Evanston, but a combination of factors including injuries to several of their top playmakers have them reeling with three straight losses. Suddenly, one of the Legends Division favorites from the beginning of the season is now relegated to playing spoiler.

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Following the Iowa game, Northwestern has Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan state in three consecutive games before finishing the season at Illinois, so beating Iowa is a must-win for the Wildcats to be assured of bowl eligibility. But that’s easier said than done in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes won the last matchup at home and are always tough to beat at home, especially in late fall when the wind starts whipping.

Iowa has shown to be pesky this season, playing Michigan State and Ohio State tough each of the last two games, so while neither of these teams is likely to win the Legends, Michigan will have to get through both of them – on the road – to have a chance.

The other noon game to keep an eye on is #24 Nebraska at Minnesota (12pm, ESPN). The Cornhuskers may be the Legends Division favorite at this point, but as Derick described on Wednesday, they have beaten just one team this season that has a winning record (4-3 Wyoming). The other four have come against winless Southern Miss, FCS school South Dakota State, and Big Ten bottom feeders Illinois and Purdue. The one team with a pulse Nebraska has faced, then-16th ranked UCLA, stomped the ‘Huskers 41-21 in Lincoln.

Minnesota is coming off a big win at Northwestern with head coach Jerry Kill taking a leave of absence. The Gophers likely don’t have enough in the tank to hang with Nebraska, but after last weekend’s big road win they’ll at least be playing with confidence.

Outside of the Big Ten there aren’t really any other big early games worth watching. Wake Forest vs #7 Miami (12pm, ESPNU) and #16 Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt (12:21pm, ESPN3) are the only others even remotely good, the latter because the Aggies are a potential bowl opponent.

Afternoon games

The afternoon slate features a few games worth watching, most notably Michigan State at Illinois (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2), only because the Spartans are Michigan’s next opponent. It’s not likely to be much of a battle as MSU’s top-ranked defense should be able to handle Illinois’ offense that was held to just 25.5 points per game against Nebraska and Wisconsin the past two weeks. Conversely, Michigan State’s offense, which hasn’t been much to talk about this season should be able to move the ball and score against the Illini’s 98th-ranked scoring defense which allows over 32 points per game. The Spartans shouldn’t have much trouble beating Illinois, but it will be a good chance to get acclimated with them if you haven’t seen them play yet this season.

Outside of the Big Ten will feature a few solid matchups worth paying attention to. Tennessee visits #1 Alabama (3:30pm, CBS), #2 Florida State hosts NC State (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2) and #9 Clemson visits Maryland (3:30pm, ESPN). Tennessee isn’t likely to pull off the upset in Tuscaloosa, but the Vols have shown some fight this season under Butch Jones, including last week’s win over #11 South Carolina and taking then-#6 Georgia to overtime earlier this month. Similarly, Florida State shouldn’t have trouble dispensing of NC State, but an unranked Wolfpack squad has beaten a ranked FSU team four times since 2005, including a 17-16 upset last season. Florida State is coming off a huge primetime win at Clemson and faces #7 Miami next week, so this could be a classic trap game. Finally, the team that was on the losing end of that Florida State win last Saturday, Clemson is licking its wounds as it travels to College Park to face a 5-2 Maryland squad. The Terps, however, were blasted by FSU (63-0) and last week by Wake Forest (34-10).

Another one to at least flip over to during commercial breaks is #10 Texas Tech at #15 Oklahoma (3:30pm, FOX). The Red Raiders are a surprising 7-0 and the Sooners’ only loss of the season was two weeks ago at the hands of Texas. Both of these teams are potential bowl opponents if Michigan either gets a BCS at-large bid or limps through the rest of the season falling to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Evening games

The evening set of games features several ranked foes squaring off. The one that most pertains to us is Penn State at #4 Ohio State (8pm, ABC). The Nittany Lions had a week off last week after beating Michigan, while Ohio State got an unexpected fight from Iowa. With two weeks to prepare, could Penn State pull off a big upset in Columbus? The big play threat of Christian Hackenberg throwing to Allen Robinson and the rest of Penn State’s receivers is sure to test Ohio State’s beleaguered secondary, but the Buckeyes will look to put pressure on the freshman quarterback. Expect a close game in what’s likely to be Ohio State’s final test before visiting Ann Arbor on Nov. 30.

The biggest battle of the day will be #12 UCLA at #3 Oregon (7pm, ESPN). The Bruins lost to 13th-ranked Stanford last week and will be looking to bounce back in Eugene against the high-powered Ducks.

Two other games feature battles of ranked teams: #21 South Carolina at #5 Missouri (7pm, ESPN2) and #6 Stanford at #25 Oregon State (10:30pm, ESPN). Missouri is the surprise of the SEC this season, but a team many feel is overrated at fifth in the BCS standings. South Carolina is coming off a disappointing loss at Tennessee, looking to pull off an upset of its own and stay in the SEC East race. Stanford got upset by Utah two weeks ago and now finds itself a game behind Oregon State and Oregon in the Pac-12 standings. If UCLA is able to upset the Ducks, this game could either put Oregon State in the conference lead or leave a three-way tie, and both teams still have to play Oregon in the final month of the season.