Team 101

What They’re Saying: National writers weigh in on Michigan’s NCAA Tournament chances

Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the country and its run through the Big Ten Tournament brought the country up to speed. The Wolverines will face Oklahoma State on Friday afternoon in a game that has drawn considerable attention early on.

Here are some highlights from around the national media about Michigan’s NCAA Tournament draw and chances.

Michigan is one of the hottest teams in the country and its run through the Big Ten Tournament brought the country up to speed. The Wolverines will face Oklahoma State on Friday afternoon in a game that has drawn considerable attention early on.

Here are some highlights from around the national media about Michigan’s NCAA Tournament draw and chances.

Michigan’s first round matchup with Oklahoma State has the highest thrill score of any NCAA Tournament game on KenPom, so it’s not surprising that CBS picked it as a must-see game of the opening round.

Sports Illustated’s Brian Hamilton tags Derrick Walton as the player to watch in the Midwest regional. That’s high praise considering that dominant guards like Kansas’ Frank Mason and Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans and National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan are all in the same region.

Is the 6’1” senior guard on track to be one of the most impactful performers in March? Put it this way: Before Jan. 21, Walton, Jr. had scored 20 points in a game just four times. He had 20-plus in five straight games after that and then hit for 29 and 22 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals and final. He’s averaged 18.7 points over his last 15 games. He’s also played fewer than 36 minutes in a game only twice since late January. The Wolverines and their floor leader come into the field of 68 as sizzling as any squad. The question is how much they have left after winning four games in four days in Washington, D.C. If there is plenty remaining in the tank, then they have more than enough offensive firepower to keep pace with Oklahoma State and severely challenge Louisville’s defense.

ESPN’s Midwest preview notes Iowa State and Michigan as two of the hottest teams in the tournament after winning their conference tournaments — and who wouldn’t want to see Derrick Walton vs. Monte Morris in the Elite Eight? — and also pines for a Rick Pitino vs. John Beilein rematch.

Matchup we’d like to see: Michigan’s John Beilein and Louisville’s Rick Pitino faced off in an epic 2005 Elite Eight game when Beilein was at West Virginia. Both teams combined for 29 3-pointers, and the Cardinals eventually rallied from down 13 to win in overtime. Pitino also got the best of Beilein when the two battled in the 2013 national championship game. The matchup would come down to if Louisville’s vaunted defense could contain the Wolverines’ perimeter-oriented offense.

John Gasaway ranks Michigan as the 10th hottest team in the NCAA Tournament.

Who knew, when Northwestern completed “The Pass” and won in the final seconds against Michigan in Evanston, that the Wildcats’ heroics would be the only thing standing between the Wolverines and a perfect late-season 8-0 run? As it is, the Big Ten tournament champions enter the tournament having won 10 of their past 12, the only blemishes being the Taphorn Miracle and an overtime loss on the road at Minnesota.

He also notes Oklahoma State as one of the coldest.

On one hand, the Cowboys carry this list’s longest current losing streak. On the other, OSU has dropped a mere three in a row. Two of those losses were to Iowa State — one in Ames by just three points, the other in Kansas City in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals — and the third defeat came against Kansas in Stillwater. Those aren’t profile-killers by any means, and at the end of the day, Brad Underwood still might have the best offense in the nation. The last three final scores land Oklahoma State on this list, but can a team be cold and dangerous? If so, the ‘Pokes are that team.

Yahoo!’s Brad Evans likes Michigan as a cinderella in the Midwest.

The Wolverines are much like their Marvel namesake, a team with superior healing power and superhuman abilities. Thus far the story of March, Michigan, after a harrowing plane crash, improbably rolled through the Big Ten Tournament untouched, practice apparel and all. With its temperature soaring, to call it “dangerous” would be a terrible understatement. Derrick Walton Jr., who dropped 16 dimes in Michigan’s final regular season game at Nebraska, has rocketed his game to the stratosphere. His impeccable court vision, off-dribble abilities and scoring prowess both inside and out labels him a complete point guard. Match him with versatile weapons Mo Wagner, D.J. Wilson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson and a suddenly scorching Zak Irvin and the Wolverines, who space the floor beautifully, present many matchup problems. If they continue to tickle the twine from outside (38.1 3PT%) and exhibit the same staunch defense it exuded in the Big Ten prelude (1.00 points per possession allowed), they will represent the Midwest in the Final Four. And, no, I don’t own any Chris Weber throwback jerseys.

Five Thirty Eight published an interactive bracket with their calculated odds by round, giving Michigan a 63% chance of reaching the second round and a 23% chance at the Sweet Sixteen.

Here’s a similar analysis from KenPom. Pomeroy’s model is high on Oklahoma State which seems to hurt the Wolverines a bit moving forward.

Michigan was ranked 27th on the official seed list and committee chair Mark Hollis said that the Wolverines and Badgers were swapped after the Big Ten Tournament championship.

I’m not quite sure how someone could seed the Big Team teams in the order that the committee settled on — Purdue (16), Minnesota (18), Maryland (23), Michigan (27), Wisconsin (29), Northwestern (32) and Michigan State (35) — but that’s water under the bridge because the bracket has been finalized.

Sports on Earth calls Oklahoma State over Michigan one of its most likely upsets.

Give all the credit in the world to Michigan, which rebounded from a runway plane crash that forced it to arrive on the morning of its first Big Ten tournament game and won the whole event, rattling off four wins in a row — including Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Wolverines have found a rhythm offensively and are dangerous. Of course, so is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys don’t defend well (Michigan isn’t elite defensively, either), but they rank No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. Get ready for a great point guard matchup between Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans and Michigan’s Derrick Walton. This looks like an even game that could be among the most entertaining in the first round.

Sports on Earth also notes Michigan’s airplane accident as one of the tournament’s top storylines.

Sporting News names Michigan as the biggest sleeper threat in the Midwest, but this note looking ahead to Louisville is also interesting:

No. 2 Louisville’s top three scorers, Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider and Deng Adel, are shockingly inefficient for a team this successful. They combine to shoot 40.7 percent from the field, with all three below 41.3 percent for the year. To get an idea of how unusually poor this is, Rick Pitino’s team is the only one in the Field of 68 with its top three scorers all shooting below 42 percent. For more context, the top three bucket-getters for the other three No. 2 seeds combine to shoot 48.7 percent, with none of the teams below 45.4.  The Cardinals’ 170th-ranked true shooting percentage (which takes into account threes and free throws) of 54.3 could ultimately be the thing that keeps them from a lengthy tourney run.

ESPN’s Jay Williams likes Michigan, but he’s not sure if he likes them more than his other favorite teams.

ESPN’s Giant Killers model isn’t too keen on the Big Ten, with three league teams as potential first round upsets.

Find more interesting material about Michigan in the NCAA Tournament? Share more links in the comments section below.

To Top