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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Recruiting profile: 2015 QB commit Zach Gentry

Friday, January 30th, 2015


Gentry running
(Roberto E. Rosales, Albuquerque Journal)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark, 2015 CB Iman Marshall

Zach Gentry – QB | 6-7, 230 | Albuquerque, N.M. – Eldorado
ESPN: 4-star, #9 Pro-QB, 83 rating Rivals: 4-star, #4 Pro-QB 247: 3-star, #16 Pro-QB Scout: 4-star, #19 QB
Other top offers: Alabama, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Nebraska, Penn State

Jim Harbaugh’s second commit as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Zach Gentry, is a well-regarded recruit, in large part because of his prodigious size and potential upside. Gentry was previously committed to Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns, dating back to May of 2014, before decommitting earlier this month and committing to Wolverines on his official visit last weekend. Michigan was desperate at the quarterback position coming into this offseason, and now has early enrollee Alex Malzone and the newly committed Gentry appearing to be battling for the starting spot this fall, assuming Shane Morris doesn’t have a miraculous improvement this spring.

Arm Strength

Arm Strength - Zach GentryWhen speaking of towering quarterbacks, rocket-armed passers Joe Flacco and former Michigan Wolverine Ryan Mallett come to mind. It would be unfair to compare Gentry to either of these pros, as he simply does not have the cannon of arm that is expected of signal-callers who are taller than 6’6”. Gentry can stretch the field vertically by 50 yards at best, which is more than enough for most offenses, but is nothing special within itself. He can also throw it with nice velocity and spin to the sideline and over the middle, but isn’t going to sling it through a brick wall. Mechanically, Gentry’s arm action is somewhat of a concern as he has long arms which it make it difficult for him to get rid of the ball quickly and his release point is not always consistent.

Accuracy

Accuracy - Zach GentryIn terms of delivering the football with accuracy and anticipation to his receivers, Gentry is a work in progress. Once again, mechanics are an issue here as too often he will throw off of his back foot and will throw without first setting his feet. These are common issues which will affect ball placement and can be ironed out with coaching. Going back to his arm action, Gentry’s inconsistent release point can hinder his receiver’s ability to track the football out of his hand and cleanly field the ball. On the plus side, Gentry shows good touch on downfield throws and can drop the ball in a bucket when he is on.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Zach GentryAs a high school player, Gentry was a dual-threat, capable of making plays with his legs as well as with his arm, and frequently picking up huge chunks of yardage. Gentry is unlikely to carry this trait over to the collegiate ranks, however, a number of factors considered. While he is able to chew up yards with long strides, he is not explosive and lacks much shiftiness outside of weaving in and out of a straight line. Moreover, Gentry did not play against overwhelming athletic talent in the state of New Mexico, which could inflate how quick he looked on the field. Where Gentry’s ability likely will be able to carry over is his extending the play within and outside of the pocket to buy time to make the throw.

Intangibles

Intangibles - Zach GentryWith a player of his height, Gentry should have no trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage to read a defense (he is as tall as or taller than a lot of collegiate offensive linemen). From that point, however, Gentry is still a work in progress in terms of finding the right receiver to throw to and how patient he is waiting for routes to develop. As is, Gentry has some happy feet and is all too willing to take off and run without first exhausting his throwing options and keeping his eyes downfield should a receiver uncover late. Gentry is still a raw talent and has a lot of room to grow with how he processes the game, and with Harbaugh at the helm Gentry has come to right place to develop his skill set as a signal caller.

Bottom Line

While I may not be as big of a fan of Gentry as many others, there is some definite upside that Gentry brings as a recruit. My biggest concern with Gentry is that his size may have covered up a lot of his deficiencies at the high school level, as so many oversized washout players have had happen in their high school careers. The battle for Michigan’s starting quarterback job should be an interesting one, as it pits evil opposites Zach Gentry, a huge, raw, and mobile passer, against Alex Malzone, an undersized, but polished and accurate signal-caller. I expect the latter recruit to win the job, but Gentry is not someone who should be counted out.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
8.3 (3-star)

New in Blue: 2015 quarterback Zach Gentry

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


eldo-manzano fb(Jim Thompson, Albuquerque Journal)

Zach Gentry – QB | 6-7, 230 | Albuquerque, N.M. – Eldorado
ESPN: 4-star, #9 Pro-QB, 83 rating Rivals: 4-star, #4 Pro-QB 247: 3-star, #16 Pro-QB Scout: 4-star, #19 QB
Other top offers: Alabama, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Nebraska, Penn State

Just hours after Jim Harbaugh received his first commitment from defensive end Reuben Jones on Saturday evening, he landed a bigger splash with quarterback Zach Gentry. The Albuquerque, N.M. native and former Texas Longhorns commit flipped his commitment to Harbaugh’s Wolverines during halftime of the Michigan-Wisconsin basketball game and announced it via Twitter.

Gentry is a four-star recruit according to ESPN, Rivals, and Scout, and a high three-star according to 247 Sports. Rivals has him ranked the highest as their fourth-best quarterback in the class and 105th-best prospect overall. ESPN is close behind, ranking Gentry the ninth-best quarterback and 118th-best prospect. Scout lists him as the 19th-ranked quarterback and 278th overall, while 247 has him as the 16th-best quarterback and not ranked in their Top247.

While his ranking varies quite a bit among the recruiting sites, it’s largely because he plays in New Mexico, a state not exactly known for football, so the competition he faces each week isn’t the best. But with offers from the likes of Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Tennessee in addition to Texas and Michigan, it’s safe to say that if he played high school football one state to the East, he’d be ranked much higher.

Gentry’s size (6’7″, 230) is coveted at the college and NFL level, and with Harbaugh’s guidance he’s in a great spot to become the next great Michigan quarterback. But for now, he’ll enter fall camp as the low man on the totem pole, behind even classmate Alex Malzone, who enrolled for spring semester and will participate in spring practice.

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.

Hooked ’em: Michigan 79 – Texas 65

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014


Morgan dunk vs Texas 3-22-14(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

On Thursday night Michigan looked sloppy in defeating Wofford, but was able to advance to the Round of 32. On Saturday night, the Wolverines made sure to avoid sloppy play, turning the ball over just twice and committing just three fouls in the first half while racing out to a commanding lead. Despite a comeback attempt by Texas in the second half, Michigan’s lead was to much and the Wolverines advanced back to the Sweet Sixteen with a 79-65 win.

Like Thursday, Nik Stauskas got the scoring started with a three-pointer, but this time Texas scored the next six. But another Stauskas three ignited a 10-0 Michigan run until Cameron Ridley scored on a tip-in. Glenn Robinson III answered with a three, followed by yet another by Stauskas to open up a double-digit lead at 21-10 midway through the half.

But Michigan wasn’t done. Over the next three minutes the Wolverines outscored Texas 9-2 to open up a 30-12 lead. Texas outscored Michigan by five the rest of the half to head into the locker room down 13 at 43-30.

Glenn Robinson III hit big shots at key times to preserve the win (Morry Gash, AP)

Glenn Robinson III hit big shots at key times to preserve the win (Morry Gash, AP)

Derrick Walton Jr. started the second half with two threes sandwiched around a Jordan Morgan dunk, and when Stauskas converted a pair of free throws at the 16:02 mark Michigan was once again back up by 18. But Texas’ zone defense finally started to pay off as Michigan went cold, failing to score for the next four minutes and 22 seconds. Stauskas ended the drought and Michigan’s lead matched its halftime lead.

Texas answered with five straight to pull within eight with 9:56 to play, but Robinson III made a pair of free throws to move it back to 10. Two straight Longhorn baskets brought it down to six and suddenly Michigan’s once-comfortable lead was down to two possessions.

Robinson answered yet again with a jumper and then a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions. Texas made a pair of free throws to pull within nine, but Spike Albrecht nailed a three. Texas once again cut it to eight, but this time it was Caris LeVert with a big three to squelch any hopes of a Texas run and the Longhorns would never get it to single digits the rest of the way.

Michigan scored eight straight to pull ahead 76-60 and that was all she wrote.

For the game, Michigan shot 44.4 percent (53.6 percent in the first half) and 50 percent from three-point range. The Wolverines set a program NCAA Tournament record with 14 made threes. Texas shot 37.1 percent from the field and 4-of-11 from downtown. Michigan was out-rebounded 41-30, but turned the ball over just four times and converted nine Texas turnovers into 15 points.

Michigan got balanced scoring from its starters, led by Stauskas’ 17 on 4-of-12 shooting (4-of-9 three-point). He also added a career-high eight assists and no turnovers. Jordan Morgan recorded his second straight double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Robinson III and LeVert scored 14 apiece. Walton Jr. added eight.

Michigan advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row and will play the winner of Sunday’s matchup between 11-seed Tennessee and 14-seed Mercer. The game will take place on Friday in Indianapolis.

Three Stars

***Jordan Morgan***
15 points (4-of-7 FG, 7-of-8 FT), 10 rebounds (five offensive), two assists, two steals, one turnover in 35 minutes

**Glenn Robinson III**
14 points (5-of-10 FG, 2-of-3 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), one block, two steals, one turnover in 36 minutes

*Nik Stauskas*
17 points (4-of-12 FG, 4-of-9 3PT, 5-of-6 FT), two rebounds, eight assists, one block in 38 minutes

Quick Hitters

 The win was number 700 for John Beilein, making him the sixth active head coach to reach the milestone.

 Michigan is 12-2 this season when Stauskas, Robinson III, and LeVert all score in double figures.

 Jordan Morgan recorded his third double-double of the season and seventh of his career. He is the first player to record back-to-back double-doubles since Mitch McGary against VCU and Kansas in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

 Morgan passed Chris Webber for 15th place on Michigan’s career rebounding list.

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 5-10 2-3 2-2 2 3 5 2 14 0 1 1 2 36
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-7 2-4 0-0 1 0 1 2 8 2 0 0 0 29
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-12 4-9 5-6 0 2 2 1 17 8 0 1 0 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 4-7 0-0 7-8 5 5 10 3 15 2 1 0 1 35
23 Caris LeVert* 5-12 3-6 1-3 1 3 4 2 14 3 0 0 0 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-2 1-2 2-2 1 2 3 0 5 1 0 0 1 11
15 Jon Horford 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 5
21 Zak Irvin 2-4 2-4 0-0 0 0 0 0 6 0 1 0 0 9
Totals 24-54 14-28 17-21 11 19 30 12 79 16 4 2 5 200
Texas 23-62 4-11 15-16 21 20 41 16 65 14 9 3 3 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Texas

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014


Michigan vs Texas banner
#7/8 (2-seed) Michigan (26-8, 15-3) vs (7-seed) Texas (24-10, 11-7)
Saturday, Mar. 22 | Milwaukee, Wis. | 5:15 p.m. EST | CBS
Offense
73.9 Points/gm 74.5
(867-1,822) 47.6 Field Goal % 43.4 (882,2,033)
(287-728) 39.4 3-pt FG % 32.6 (174-533)
(491-646) 76.0 Free Throw % 66.6 (595-893)
14.4 FT Made/gm 17.5
31.8 Reb/gm 41.4
14.2 Assists/gm 12.9
9.4 Turnovers/gm 12.3
Defense
64.6 Points/gm 70.5
(821-1,858) 44.2 Field Goal % 40.1 (795-1,985)
(187-599) 31.2 3-pt FG % 34.7 (245-707)
30.9 Opp. Reb/gm 34.5
5.2 Steals/gm 5.8
2.5 Blocks/gm 6.0
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (17.4), Caris LeVert (13.1) Points/gm J. Holmes (12.9), Isaiah Taylor (12.4)
Jordan Morgan (4.8), Caris LeVert (4.5) Reb/gm Cameron Ridley (8.2), J. Holmes (7.1)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan didn’t look sharp in beating Wofford in the NCAA Tournament opener on Thursday night, but the Wolverines did what they needed to do: win and move on. Now, they turn their attention to the Texas Longhorns, overtime winners over Arizona State int he Milwaukee nightcap. 

Related
Drew’s 3 thoughts: Texas
The M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge: Texas
Inside the Numbers: Will defense keep Michigan from Sweet Sixteen?

Texas holds a 24-10 overall record and went 11-7 in the Big 12. The Longhorns average a half point more per game than Michigan and allow about six points more per game. They’re not a very good shooting team, converting at 43.4 percent overall and 32.6 percent from three-point range. In fact, Texas has attempted 211 more shots than Michigan has this season — an average of six per game — but made just 15 more. They don’t shoot a lot of threes, however, averaging fewer than 16 per game and have attempted 195 fewer than Michigan. 

Defensively, Texas holds opponents to just 40.1 percent shooting overall, although they do give up over seven threes per game. That’s good news for Michigan if the Wolverines can knock down their shots since the Wolverines run a perimeter-oriented offense. The issue is when Michigan goes inside as Texas averages six blocks per game. 

Can Michigan get revenge for the 1996 NCAA Tournament when 10-seed Texas sent the seven-seed Wolverines home early? Or will history rear its ugly head and repeat itself? Let’s take a look at the matchup.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Jonathan Holmes (F) 24.0 12.9 50.7 34.1 74.8 7.1 0.9 1.6 1.2 0.6
Isaiah Taylor (G) 29.9 12.4 39.3 26.3 74.0 3.3 4.0 2.3 0.1 1.1
Javan Fellix (G) 26.4 11.8 36.0 33.7 76.0 1.8 2.8 1.4 0.0 0.9
Cameron Ridley (C) 25.4 11.4 54.8 00.0 62.2 8.2 0.4 1.6 2.2 0.5
Demarcus Holland (G) 29.8 7.3 41.8 29.2 57.0 4.7 2.4 1.9 0.1 1.2
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Connor Lammert (F) 20.7 5.8 48.8 34.6 63.9 5.2 0.9 0.7 0.5 0.3
Martez Walker (G) 12.3 4.4 39.3 34.9 77.8 2.1 0.4 0.7 0.0 0.5
Prince Ibeh (C) 13.9 3.6 50.5 00.0 51.7 3.5 0.1 0.7 1.8 0.3
Kendal Yancy (G) 12.4 3.5 41.3 35.3 55.9 2.2 0.9 0.5 0.1 0.4

Junior forward Jonathan Holmes (6’8″, 240) leads Texas in scoring with 12.9 points per game and ranks second with 7.1 rebounds per game. He has struggled so far in postseason play, scoring below his average in three of the last four games. In the Big 12 Tournament loss to Baylor, Holmes shot juts 3-of-12 and managed just six points. He scored 11 on 4-of-10 shooting on Thursday night. He does, however, have five 20-plus-point performances on the season including 23 in a win over then-No. 8 Iowa State and 22 in a win over then-No. 6 Kansas. He shoots over 50 percent from the field and is a capable three-point shooter. 

Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor (6’1″, 170) is right behind Holmes in scoring average with 12.4 points per game. He leads the Longhorns with four assists per contest, but also turns it over more than two times per game. Despite being a 6’1″ guard, he rarely shoots threes — he has only attempted 19 all season and made five — but rather likes to beat his man off the dribble and then shoot floaters from inside the arc. He’s a high-usage guy who has taken at least 10 shots in 12 of the last 15 games and has been feast or famine. In losses to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech in the final two weeks of the regular season, he went a combined 4-of-32 from the field. When he’s taking and missing a lot of shots, it usually results in a loss.

Expect to see a lot of this from Isaiah Taylor (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Expect to see a lot of this from Isaiah Taylor (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Taylor’s backcourt mate, sophomore Javan Felix (5’11”, 195), scores 11.8 points per game and has a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s the only player on the team with more than 100 three-point attempts and he makes them at just a 33.7 percent clip. He hit 2-of-4 against Arizona State on Thursday night and that was a virtual vacation compared to what he normally shoots. In fact, he had two straight games in which he chucked 10 or more threes, one of which was 15. He made 8-of-25 combined. His best games of the season, however, have come when his threes are kept to a normal rate. He scored 28 against Oklahoma (2-of-7 three-point), 27 against Oklahoma State (6-of-8), and 23 against Kansas State (2-of-6). 

The fourth player averaging double-figures is center Cameron Ridley (6’9″, 285). The massive sophomore averages 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while leading the team with 54.8 percent shooting. He’s a monster on the glass with 111 offensive rebounds — an average of over three per game — and averages more than two blocks per game. Ridley recorded a double-double in 10 of his 34 games this season, including a 17-point, 12-rebound performance on Thursday night.

The fifth starter is sophomore guard Demarcus Holland (6’2″, 185). He scores 7.3 points per game, shoots just 29.2 percent from three-point range, and turns the ball over nearly as many times (1.9) as he assists (2.4). The 14 points Holland scored against Arizona State on Thursday night were his most since Dec. 18 and the first time he has reached double digits since Feb. 15. He’s the guy you want shooting the ball.

The main man off the bench is sophomore forward Connor Lammert (6’9″, 235). With no starters averaging more than 30 minutes a game (Michigan has three), Lammert eats up many of those, playing more than half the game. He scores 5.8 points and pulls down 5.2 boards per contest and might be the team’s best all-around shooter. He shoots 48.8 percent overall and 34.6 percent from downtown.

The other three players that see considerable minutes are freshman guards Martez Walker (6’4″, 185) and Kendal Yancy (6’3″, 200) and sophomore center Prince Ibeh (6’10”, 250). Walker and Yancy combine to average eight points and four rebounds per game. Walker played his best game of the season on Thursday night, scoring 15 points thanks to hitting 9-of-10 free throws. He’s capable of hitting the open three (22-of-63) and the team’s best free throw shooter (77.8 percent). Ibeh will be a test for Michigan’s bigs and may see more minutes than usual because of the size advantage, but the majority of his contributions will be defensively (1.8 blocks per game) and on the glass (3.5 rebounds per game).

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 8 Mercer W 76-73
Nov. 12 South Alabama W 84-77
Nov. 15 Stephen F. Austin W 72-62
Nov. 18 Houston Baptist W 89-61
Nov. 25 BYU* L 82-86
Nov. 26 DePaul* W 77-59
Nov. 29 Texas-Arlington W 72-69
Dec. 2 Vanderbilt W 70-64
Dec. 7 at Temple W 81-80 OT
Dec. 14 Texas State W 85-53
Dec. 18 at #14 North Carolina W 86-83
Dec. 21 #5 Michigan State L 78-92
Dec. 30 Rice W 66-44
Jan. 4 Oklahoma L 85-88
Jan. 8 at #11 Oklahoma State L 74-87
Jan. 11 Texas Tech W 67-64
Jan. 13 at West Virginia W 80-69
Jan. 18 #8 Iowa State W 86-76
Jan. 21 #22 Kansas State W 67-64
Jan. 25 at #24 Baylor W 74-60
Feb. 1 #6 Kansas W 81-69
Feb. 4 at TCU W 59-54
Feb. 8 at Kansas State L 57-74
Feb. 11 Oklahoma State W 87-68
Feb. 15 West Virginia W 88-71
Feb. 18 at #17 Iowa State L 76-85
Feb. 22 at #8 Kansas L 54-85
Feb. 26 Baylor W 74-69
Mar. 1 at Oklahoma L 65-77
Mar. 5 TCU W 66-54
Mar. 8 at Texas Tech L 53-59
Mar. 13 West Virginia^ W 66-49
Mar. 14 Baylor^ L 69-86
Mar. 20 Arizona State W 87-85
*CBE Classic, ^Big 12 Tournament

Texas has an interesting resume with Big 12 conference wins over Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Kansas, as well as non-conference wins over North Carolina, Mercer, and Stephen F. Austin, all three of which advanced to the Round of 32. However, the Longhorns closed the season with losses in five of their last eight and six of their last 11 prior to Thursday night’s win over Arizona State. During that span, their average margin of defeat was 15 points, including a 31-point drubbing at Kansas. 

Rick Barnes’ squad played two common opponents as Michigan. They beat Houston Baptist 86-61 (Michigan beat HBU 107-53) and lost to Michigan State 92-78 (Michigan won two of three against the Spartans). 

Texas is truly a team that is capable of beating or losing to anyone on any given night. 

Texas 4 factors

The Series

Michigan is 1-2 all-time against Texas. This will be the third straight meeting taking place in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan beat the Longhorns 84-79 in the Second Round on March 19, 1994 and Texas beat Michigan 80-76 in the Second Round in 1996. 

Drew’s 3 thoughts: Texas

Friday, March 21st, 2014


Michigan-Texas header_NCAAT(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops | Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Holding its highest seed since 1993, No. 2-seed Michigan kicked off the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a sloppy 57-40 victory against an overwhelmed No. 15 seed in the Wofford Terriers. Even though Michigan won by what would appear to be a comfortable 17-point margin, it was a somewhat concerning performance by the Wolverines.

Michigan’s offense had its fifth-least-efficient game of the season thanks in part to eight first-half turnovers and 33.3 percent shooting in the second half. Thankfully, for the Wolverines, Wofford could not capitalize, making only 34 percent of its field goals and 1-of-19 three-pointers. However, the Terriers’ horrendous shooting display was more about their offensive ineptitude than Michigan’s defensive prowess.

If this performance is repeated, the Wolverines likely will be sent home by their next opponent, the No. 7-seed Texas Longhorns. Texas advanced to the Round of 32 with a thrilling 87-85 victory against No. 10-seed Arizona State. The Longhorns blew a 14-point lead in the final 12 minutes and seemed destined for overtime. But UT center Cameron Ridley had other plans. With one tick left on the clock, in a tied game, Ridley corralled a missed Texas three-pointer and flipped it up and in for the game-winning bucket as the buzzer sounded.

So, on Saturday evening, No. 2-seed Michigan will face No. 7-seed Texas in the Round of 32 with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen at stake. Will the Wolverines advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year? Or will the Longhorns make a return appearance for the first time since 2008? Here are my three thoughts for tomorrow’s matchup:

Cameron Ridley will pose an intimidating presence for Michigan underneath (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Cameron Ridley will pose an intimidating presence for Michigan underneath (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Box Out Texas’ Trees

Texas is a team full of bricklayers. And that is putting it nicely. The Longhorns are ranked No. 252 in effective-field-goal percentage (eFG%) in the nation, recording a lackluster 47.6 eFG%. It does not matter where Texas shoots either. UT is ranked No. 231 in two-point percentage (47.2 percent) and No. 251 in three-point percentage (32.6 percent). Chances are that, when Texas throws up its initial shot from any spot on the floor outside three feet from the rim, the basketball will draw iron. Or air.

Yet Texas still has the 61st-best offense in terms of adjusted efficiency because it crashes the offensive glass as well as any team in the nation. UT grabs 39.2 percent of its misses, which is the seventh-highest rate. This effort is led by Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, and Connor Lammert, all of whom are six-foot-eight or taller. When these big men start tracking down the Longhorns’ misses, putbacks and extra possessions ensue frequently. Last night, the Longhorns accumulated 10 offensive rebounds against ASU, leading to a critical 15 second-chance points including the game-winner by Ridley at the end.

Michigan has received an unfair reputation for being a poor rebounding team under head coach John Beilein. Yes, the Wolverines always have four perimeter players on the court, but they still have been a solid defensive rebounding team. Michigan’s opponents have boarded only 28.7 percent of their misses. Texas will be Michigan’s biggest challenge on the boards yet this season, though. Nonetheless, if Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Glenn Robinson III can keep Texas away from the offensive glass, the Longhorns will struggle to generate points.

Triples, Triples, Triples

Michigan has the third-most-efficient offense in the nation. One of the reasons for this is U-M’s ability to thrive from consistently made two- and three-pointers. This season, Michigan has made 53 percent of its two-point field goals, which is the 22nd-best, and has been blocked less frequently than most teams this season. This likely will not be the case on Saturday evening, though.

Despite the allowance of 85 points and 1.21 points per possession to ASU, Texas has a legitimate defense. The catalyst is UT’s ability to intimidate opponents inside the paint. Texas has held opponents to 43 percent shooting on their two-pointers, which is the 16th-best, and has the eighth-best block rate. Its interior defense is keyed by Ridley and Holmes, as well Prince Ibeh—who has a better block rate than the other two, but plays a minor role off the bench.

On the other hand, Texas struggles to guard the perimeter. The Longhorns not only allow opponents to shoot a high percentage of three-pointers, but they also allow those opponents to make a significant amount of them. Opponents have made 34.7 percent of their threes against Texas, which is below the nation’s average.

Texas likes to push the tempo, so Michigan will need to control their fast break opportunities (Jeffrey Phelps, AP)

Texas likes to push the tempo, so Michigan will need to control their fast break opportunities (Jeffrey Phelps, AP)

Michigan will need to take advantage on the perimeter. The Wolverines will have little room inside with Ridley patrolling the paint, but will have open looks all day on the three-point line. Michigan is the 11th-best three-point shooting team in America, with five players converting at least 39 percent of them. U-M should have very little trouble draining these shots and may be able to bury as many as 10 against Texas. If not, though, Michigan may be forced to enter the belly of the beast, which likely would mean trouble.

Slow Down and Be Patient

The team that controls the pace of this game likely will be victorious. Michigan and Texas like to play at very different speeds when they are on the hardwood. The Wolverines like to slow it down and take their time. Their adjusted tempo is a slow 62.7 possessions per game, which is the 328th-fastest in the nation. On the other hand, the Longhorns want this game to be more of a track meet. Their adjusted tempo is 68.1 possessions per game, which is the 86th-fastest.

The pace of this game will be critical because the Longhorns stumble frequently in their half-court offense. Texas posts a paltry 45.9 eFG% when shooting in non-transition situations. On the other hand, Texas has a 51.7 eFG% when in transition. This is why more than 30 percent of UT’s initial shots are taken in transition, which is in the top 50 in the nation. This would be a poor matchup for a Michigan squad whose transition defense has been subpar all year.

Although Michigan has players with the skill set to thrive in a track meet, Michigan is special offensively because it has one of the best half-court offenses. Very few teams, if any, run better half-court sets than the Wolverines. To start trying to push the ball in transition against Texas would give UT a significant offensive boost while ridding Michigan of one of its biggest advantages.

Given that the Wolverines have not played more than 65 possessions in regulation of their last 14 games, including six sub-60-possession games, Michigan likely will be able to force Texas to play its game and advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight year as a result.

Prediction: Michigan 69 – Texas 62

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

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge banner

Earlier in the week we introduced the M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge, which is a basketball version of the football contest we run throughout the fall. Since Michigan beat Wofford on Thursday night, the contest will continue on Saturday and the prize will be raised to a $20 M Den gift card if the Wolverines lose to Texas. If they win, it will keep going.

If you missed the Wofford game, you can still play since the game is tabulated cumulatively. There’s currently a 27-point difference from first to last, so you could still easily get back into contention. The results from the Wofford game and the questions for Saturday’s game are below along with the rules for those who missed it the first go-around.

Wofford Results
Place Name Points
1 HTTV134 21
2 Maizenblu62 25
3 TexasWolverine 28
4 Jim Mackiewicz 29
5 Eisemant 31
6 BigHouseBrandon 36
7 kfarmer16 37
8 spooner_21 38
9 Matt Wiersum 46
10 JustJeepGear.com 48

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 Texas on Saturday. All entries must be received by tip-off. If Michigan wins, the questions for the Sweet Sixteen game will be posted on Monday and you will have until one minute before the start of that game 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.

Inside the Numbers: Will defense keep Michigan from Sweet Sixteen?

Thursday, March 20th, 2014


NCAA Tourney media day(MGoBlue.com)

Michigan fans are buzzing with excitement. Tonight, Michigan will kick off its journey in the 2014 NCAA Tournament against the Wofford Terriers in the No. 2 vs. No. 15 matchup in the Midwest Region. Michigan has its highest seed in the NCAA Tournament since it was a No. 1 seed in 1993 and seems poised to make a run at a second straight Final Four.

But should Michigan fans temper their excitement? History says that they should.

This season, the Wolverines have been an offensive juggernaut, recording an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 121.9. Not only is that rating the third best among all NCAA D-1 teams this year, behind only Creighton (125.0) and Duke (124.5), but it is the seventh best since 2002. It is testament to head coach John Beilein and the offensive talent on this Michigan roster that U-M’s offense has improved despite the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Glenn Robinson III and the Michigan offense hope to perform well enough to ease any concerns about the defense (MGoBlue.com)

Glenn Robinson III and the Michigan offense hope to perform well enough to ease any concerns about the defense (MGoBlue.com)

However, offense is only one-half of the game. Michigan has struggled on the defensive end more this season than any other under Beilein. Currently, Michigan is ranked No. 110 in adjusted defensive efficiency with a 101.9 rating. This is the first time in seven seasons under Beilein that the Wolverines have an adjusted defensive efficiency rating higher than 100.0 and the first time they have been ranked outside the top 100 in this statistic.

This development places Michigan in a very concerning situation despite earning a No. 2 seed. Teams with similar profiles to Michigan’s have not gone very far in past NCAA Tournaments. Since 2002, there have been 23 teams in the NCAA Tournament that were ranked in the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency and outside the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Only six of those teams reached the Sweet Sixteen. And only one was victorious in the Sweet Sixteen: Marquette in 2003, which advanced to the Final Four with the assistance of now-NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade.

But that is not the fairest method to evaluate those 23 teams’ NCAA Tournament performance. That method has a giant flaw which is that it does not take a team’s seed into consideration. If those teams were seeded from No. 5 to No. 16, they likely were not a favorite to even reach the Sweet Sixteen.

Thankfully, there is another method that measures more effectively a team’s performance in the NCAA Tournament: Performance Against Seed Expectations (PASE). PASE measures a team’s performance by comparing it to how previous teams with the same seed performed. Therefore, PASE is calculated by tallying the positive or negative differences between actual and expected wins at each seed position.

For example, from 1985 to 2013, all 29 years when the NCAA Tournament fielded at least 64 teams, a team with a No. 2 seed has won 2.41 games, on average, in each NCAA Tournament. Therefore, in 2014, a No. 2 seed is expected to win 2.41 games. If that No. 2 seed wins three or more games, that team has exceeded expectations. On the other hand, if that No. 2 seed wins two or fewer games, that team has underperformed.

Avg wins by seed

I used PASE to measure the performances of the 23 NCAA Tournament teams with a top-10 offense and a sub-100 defense since 2002, and I decided to categorize the teams by seed. The first category included these teams that were seeded from No. 1 to No. 4 because, by seeding, they were expected to reach the Sweet Sixteen. The second category included these teams that were seeded from No. 5 to No. 8 because, by seeding, they were expected to advance to the Round of 32. The third category included these teams that were seeded No. 9 or lower because, by seeding, they were expected to lose their first game.

PASE for Teams with Top-10 Offense and Sub-100 Defense: Seeds No. 1 – 4 (Since 2002)

Seed

Year

Team

Offense Rank

Defense Rank

Expected Wins

Actual Wins

PASE

2

2012

Missouri

1

146

2.41

0

-2.41

2

2005

Wake Forest

1

134

2.41

1

-1.41

3

2006

Gonzaga

1

186

1.86

2

+0.14

3

2005

Gonzaga

8

132

1.86

1

-0.86

3

2003

Marquette

2

119

1.86

4

+2.14

4

2007

Texas

6

106

1.52

1

-0.52

4

2006

Boston College

6

108

1.52

2

+0.48

4

2006

Wake Forest

1

135

1.52

2

+0.48

4

2003

Dayton

5

186

1.52

0

-1.52

Average

1.83

1.44

-0.39

Michigan fans should be concerned most about the foregoing table. Since 2002, there were nine teams with similar profiles to Michigan given a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament. All teams with these seeds are expected to win 1.83 games. Yet, the nine teams with a similar profile to Michigan won 0.39 games less than expected, on average. On its face, this may not seem like a significant difference, but this is a 21.3 percent reduction in NCAA Tournament wins.

Of these nine teams, all teams that were expected to reach the Sweet Sixteen based solely on its seeding, only four did. Further, neither of the teams that were seeded No. 2, that took the same path in their region that Michigan will take in its region, made it to the second weekend. In 2005, No. 2 seed Wake Forest fell in the Round of 32 to No. 7 seed West Virginia, 111-105, in a classic double-overtime thriller. And, in 2012, Missouri became just the fifth No. 2 seed ever to lose in the Round of 64, being upset at the hands of No. 15 seed Norfolk State, 86-84. Michigan hopes it can be the first No. 2 seed with a top-10 offense and a sub-100 defense to win both of its games in the first weekend since 2002.

PASE for Teams with Top-10 Offense and Sub-100 Defense: Seeds No. 5 – 8 (Since 2002)

Seed

Year

Team

Offense Rank

Defense Rank

Expected Wins

Actual Wins

PASE

6

2010

Notre Dame

7

131

1.17

0

-1.17

7

2004

Michigan State

7

117

0.82

0

-0.82

8

2013

Colorado State

7

135

0.69

1

+0.31

8

2013

North Carolina State

9

112

0.69

0

-0.69

8

2012

Creighton

6

190

0.69

1

+0.31

8

2010

California

5

101

0.69

1

+0.31

8

2007

BYU

10

105

0.69

0

-0.69

Average

0.78

0.43

-0.35

Teams with similar profiles to Michigan’s profile that were seeded from No. 5 to No. 8 have suffered a similar fate as to those given a top-four seed. Where teams with this profile that received a top-four seed lost 0.39 games less than expected, on average, these teams that earned a seed from No. 5 to No. 8 have won 0.35 games less than expected, on average. Only three of these teams exceeded expectations, and none of them appeared in the Sweet Sixteen.

PASE for Teams with Top-10 Offense and Sub-100 Defense: Seeds No. 5 – 8 (Since 2002)

Seed

Year

Team

Offense Rank

Defense Rank

Expected Wins

Actual Wins

PASE

9

2008

Oregon

7

180

.58

0

-0.58

9

2004

Arizona

8

172

0.58

0

-0.58

10

2013

Iowa State

6

133

0.64

1

+0.36

10

2012

Purdue

9

125

0.64

1

+0.36

12

2010

Cornell

4

174

0.54

2

+1.46

12

2009

Arizona

5

155

0.54

2

+1.46

13

2011

Oakland

6

132

0.27

0

-0.27

Average

0.54

0.86

+0.32

However, teams with a top-10 offense and a sub-100 defense have excelled when they are the underdog. Unlike these teams that were given a top-eight seed, teams with a similar profile that earned a bottom-eight seed actually won 0.32 more games than expected, on average. Four of these seven teams pulled off the Round-of-64 upset, including two No. 12 seeds that stunned the public with surprise berths in the Sweet Sixteen.

So what does this all mean? Teams with a top-10 offense and a sub-100 defense are high-variance teams that struggle to consistently perform well because they are one-trick ponies. These teams rely on their offense to win. However, hot-shooting can be touch-and-go and experience high fluctuations. A team can run the perfect play for a 40-percent three-point shooter take a wide-open shot from behind the arc, but, sometimes, that shooter cannot bury it in one game.

Therefore, teams with a top-10 offense and a sub-100 defense are much more vulnerable to upsets in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament. If that team’s offense sputters for just one game, it may not have the defense to fend off a pesky low-seed opponent. On the other hand, a team with this profile and a low seed may be more likely to cash in on an upset or two in the NCAA Tournament if its elite offense gets hot at the right time.

John Beilein is the biggest overachiever in the NCAA Tournament according to PASE (MGoBlue.com)

John Beilein is the biggest overachiever in the NCAA Tournament according to PASE (MGoBlue.com)

So will Michigan be more vulnerable to an early upset than previous top-two seeds? Most likely. However, this does not mean that Michigan is doomed. There are a few factors working in the Wolverines’ favor that will help U-M be more like 2003 Marquette than 2012 Missouri.

First, Michigan’s offense has been very consistent since the start of the Big Ten season. In its last 20 games, Michigan has averaged at least 1.100 points per possession, which is an excellent rate against Big Ten competition, in 16 of them. Of the four games in which U-M failed to score that many points per possession, one was at the haunted Assembly Hall in Bloomington, one was at Carver-Hawkeye Arena before Iowa collapsed, and one was when Michigan played its third game in three days at the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan will experience none of these conditions during the NCAA Tournament.

Second, Michigan does not have an offense that just happened to fall into the top 10 like some of the teams with similar profiles listed above. The Wolverines have the seventh-best offense since 2002. Therefore, not only has Michigan’s offense been consistent, it also has been more explosive.

Third, teams with a top-10 offense and a sub-100 defense that received top-eight seeds may have underperformed in the NCAA Tournament, but none of those teams were led by Beilein. Using the same PASE metric as above, Beilein is the biggest overachiever in the NCAA Tournament among all active coaches who have made a minimum of five trips. Beilein’s teams have won 0.775 more wins than expected each NCAA Tournament, on average. So, if any coach is going to help ensure that Michigan does not suffer an early upset, it is Beilein.

And, finally, Michigan’s path to the Sweet Sixteen will be a challenge, but it is not formidable. Tonight, the Wolverines face Wofford, who according to Ken Pomeroy, is the worst of the four No. 15 seeds in this NCAA Tournament. Further, Wofford has played five games against teams ranked in Pomeroy’s Top 100. The Terriers lost all five of those games, with its lowest margin of defeat at 14 points. No game is safe in the NCAA Tournament, but Michigan should beat Wofford by a comfortable margin.

Assuming the Wolverines win in the Round of 64, they will face the winner of either No. 7 seed Texas or No. 10 seed Arizona State in the Round of 32. Similar to Wofford, according to Pomeroy, both Texas and Arizona State are the worst of their four respective seeds. Additionally, both the Longhorns and the Sun Devils have struggled lately, with John Gasaway of ESPN listing them as two of the three coldest teams ($) entering the NCAA Tournament. So, although Texas and Arizona State may have a few matchups here and there, the Wolverines appear to have the best odds of any No. 2 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen.

So should Michigan fans temper their excitement? I think not. Although history suggests that teams with the Wolverines’ profile will be vulnerable to early-round upsets, Michigan seems to have the talent, the coaching, and the first-weekend tournament draw to distinguish itself from the others in the history books. I like the Wolverines to ease past Wofford and claw past either Texas or Arizona State to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season.

Related
Michigan hoops preview: Wofford
Examining Michigan’s path through the Midwest region
The M&GB March Madness Five-Spot Challenge
A first look at Wofford

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.