Skip to content

Michigan keeps exceeding expectations during another tournament run

Mar 28, 2014, 11:26 PM EDT

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan was supposed to be in this position.

Heading to the Elite 8 behind a balanced offensive attack led by the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Except consensus preseason All-American Mitch McGary has been out of the lineup for Michigan since December 21st with a back injury that forced the sophomore big man to have season-ending surgery on January 7th.

Many left the Wolverines for dead with no chance of making it back to the Final Four after last year’s championship-game loss to Louisville. But now, No. 2 seed Michigan is one game away from doing just that after Friday’s 73-71 win over No. 11 seed Tennessee in the Sweet 16 of the Midwest Regional.

Behind a new Big Ten Player of the Year — sophomore wing Nik Stauskas — Michigan is sporting one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the country as the Wolverines look like a major threat in the Midwest thanks to its potent perimeter attack.

“We have a really confident group here,” Stauskas said. “The fact that we’ve been through that run we had last year, we just have to go out and have fun. We know what we’re capable of doing and we just try to stick to our game plan and have fun doing it.”

Michigan entered Friday’s contest shooting 39.8% from three-point range this season and that trend of hot shooting continued against Tennessee on Friday. Michigan started 7-for-9 from distance in the first half before finishing 55 percent (11-for-20) for the game.

With five different Wolverines knocking down a three-pointer, Michigan forces teams to pick and choose who to help off of on ball screens and on the perimeter. With three guys in Stauskas, sophomore guard Caris LeVert and freshman point guard Derrick Walton that can operate pick-and-rolls and hit shots from the perimeter, the Wolverines can throw a lot of different looks at an opposing defense. And that doesn’t include the offensive versatility and athleticism of sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III.

“You saw that with Texas. I feel like we had a really balanced attack in that game,” Stauksas said. “It makes it toughest for teams to guard you if you have four or five or six guys who are capable of scoring at any time. They don’t really know what to do with that. I think you saw that in the first half (against Tennessee), especially, with our spacing on the floor, they didn’t really know who to help off of, who not to help off of and it kind of led to some easy baskets.”

While Stauskas and the perimeter threats were a known commodity entering the Tournament, the continued solid play of senior forward Jordan Morgan is a huge reason why Michigan is in its current position.

Morgan and Robinson III were thought to be at a disadvantage facing Tennessee’s interior duo of senior forward Jeronne Maymon and junior forward Jarnell Stokes but Michigan held the duo to 13 points on Friday as Morgan took the potential game-saving charge on Stokes with six seconds left and the Wolverines clinging to a 72-71 lead. The senior also had a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds for Michigan after recording back-to-back double-doubles to start the tournament.

“We heard all week about they had mismatches and how we couldn’t guard them inside. I guess people forgot we play in the Big Ten and we won the Big Ten outright,” Morgan said. “So we’re not really soft around here. That’s not who we are. We lift a lot of weights. So it’s just ‑‑ I don’t know, it’s a pride thing for us. We’re not about to get punked.”

People must have forgotten that Morgan and Robinson had to defend a healthy McGary in practice last season or that they went through a tough and physical Big Ten. Michigan played a difficult non-conference schedule with games against Iowa State, Arizona, Duke and Stanford. Morgan and his Michigan teammates feel prepared to face anything by this point.

“(I told them to) have a strong chest and try to keep them off the glass and that’s what they did out there tonight,” McGary said of his frontcourt teammates against Tennessee.

Although McGary is relegated to the role of America’s most famous cheerleader during the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the sophomore dressing in uniform and warming up with his teammates before the game seemed to give Michigan an additional emotional boost.

“Obviously I’m not going to play or anything like that but I feel more connected to my teammates when I dress,” McGary said. “I think it (gave my teammates a lift for) a little bit. I also didn’t want to take credit away from them because people make such a big deal about it. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal because I’m wearing a uniform just like them.”

People made a big deal of Michigan losing Mitch McGary, but the Wolverines keep humming along and winning close games. They’re 22-4 since McGary went down with the season-ending injury and now they’re in position to potentially make another Final Four.

Not many anticipated Michigan to be in this position — given this season’s adversity — except for the confident group of Wolverines that keep hitting shots and winning close games.

“I don’t know if we’re getting lucky or what we’re doing but we just seem to have a thing about pulling out games and winning in the last couple of minutes,” Stauskas said. “Maybe that’s our toughness or resiliency to get these wins but we’ve done a great job both offensively and defensively to hold onto these games.”

Latest Posts
  1. Rice’s offseason workout regimen was intense (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT

    Rice Athletics Rice Athletics

    It may not be surprising, then, to hear that their new head coach is a product of Shaka Smart’s VCU staff.

  2. Minnesota freshman forward denied admission

    Aug 27, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT

    Richard Pitino AP

    Richard Pitino had five recruits scheduled to join the program.

  3. Report: College of Charleston head coaching search down to two finalists

    Aug 26, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The College of Charleston is looking to replace Doug Wojcik, who was fired on Aug. 5.

  4. Winthrop is the third stop for the former Louisville, Missouri center

    Aug 26, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The 6-foot-10 big man was dismissed from Missouri on April 10.

  5. Highlights from Under Armour’s Elite 24 (VIDEO)

    Aug 26, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Some of the best high school players in the country appeared in Elite 24 this weekend in Brooklyn.

  6. Former Oakland guard transfers to Dayton, eligible this season

    Aug 26, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dayton adds depth to its point guard position for the 2014-2015 season.

  7. Kerem Kanter becomes a late commitment to Green Bay’s incoming class

    Aug 26, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT

    Terrence Payne/NBC Sports Terrence Payne/NBC Sports

    The younger brother of Enes Kanter will join the favorite to win the Horizon League.

  8. Marlon Jones is headed to Junior College instead of Loyola (IL)

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Porter Moser’s team should still take a step forward in the Missouri Valley.

  9. Memphis adds a shot-blocker in their 2016 recruiting class

    Aug 26, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    Josh Pastner AP

    Pastner continues to recruit the state of Tennessee well.

  10. The ‘unlucky’ label doesn’t fit Iowa and Utah

    Aug 26, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Some teams are unlucky in losses. It’s not bad luck when you blow games you should have won, though.

  11. Lindy’s releases their preseason top ten

    Aug 26, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Our top ten is different, but not by that much.

  12. Updates on potential sites for future Final Fours, First Fours

    Aug 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    According to a report, there are six sites vying for four Final Fours between 2017 and 2020.

  13. Report: UTEP has two incoming freshmen not qualify

    Aug 25, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    UTEP Southern Miss Basketball AP

    UTEP took a blow to its 2014-15 season as two freshmen failed to make the roster.

  14. Xavier goes 4-0 in Brazil and gets experience for six new freshmen

    Aug 25, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT

    Chris Mack AP

    Xavier went 4-0 on a preseason trip to Brazil and got a lot of playing time for its inexperienced team.

  15. UConn awards scholarship to walk-on

    Aug 25, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT

    Kevin Ollie AP

    UConn gave a scholarship to a former walk-on.

  16. Former Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson getting pro tryout in Italy

    Aug 25, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe1nze4n2y4mdjkoge3njq1zwrkytbjnjy2ntbknja4 AP

    Former Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson will get a shot to play professionally in Europe.

  17. Vanderbilt walk-on earns a scholarship (VIDEO)

    Aug 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    carter josephs AP

    Cool video of a Vanderbilt walk-on earning a scholarship.

  18. Patrick Ewing, agent David Falk donate $3.3 million to Georgetown practice facility

    Aug 25, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    "A Year In A New York Minute" Photo Exhibition Getty Images

    Former Georgetown great Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk are donating $3.3 million to Georgetown for a practice facility.