What They’re Saying: 2012 NCAA Tournament Preview Roundup

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Photo: Dustin Johnston

With Michigan’s NCAA tournament round of 64 matchup against Ohio just days away, it’s time to begin looking at what the experts are saying. Nearly everybody has Michigan advancing to the Round of 32, but most seem to tread lightly when picking the Wolverines.

Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com doesn’t see Ohio beating Michigan, but he has D.J. Cooper listed as one of 10 players who could “bust brackets.” Which would mean, hypothetically, that the Bobcats have some serious upset potential:

He’s a threat for a multitude of reasons. He’s an efficient distributor (5.7 apg). He’s a game-changing defender (2.4 spg). And he’s experienced. Two years ago, the Bobcats played in the NCAA tournament. Cooper was only a freshman then, but those early experiences helped him and the other youngsters on that team prepare for tough matchups away from home. I don’t think the Bobcats will beat the Wolverines. But John Beilein won’t take them or Cooper lightly in their second round matchup.

Find more notes, quotes and tidbits from national bloggers and analysts on Michigan’s match-up with Ohio and the Midwest regional after the jump.

Also at ESPN, Jason King doesn’t mention the Wolverines in his Midwest regional preivew. Michigan ranks 16th among tournament teams when recompiling KenPom ratings based only on games against fellow tournament foes.

Ron Dauster of the blog ‘Ballin is a Habit’ has the Michigan/Ohio matchup listed as an “upset to watch for.”

There are three reasons I think this happens: 1) Ohio is one of the best in the country at defending the three, which is something that Michigan relies heavily upon; 2) DJ Cooper, who will be matched up with Trey Burke, is a terrific on-ball defender; and 3) Ohio has been here before, upsetting Georgetown in 2010.

As a quick response to Dauster’s reasoning, I have this to say. 1.) The “defending the three” statistic is one of the most overrated, if not the most overrated stat in basketball, as was pointed out in an earlier post today. More than anything, defending the three comes to down to whether or not the opposing team is having a good day shooting it from behind the arc. This isn’t to take anything away from Ohio, but that statistic shouldn’t necessarily scare Michigan fans. 2.) D.J. Cooper can’t be a better defender than Aaron Craft, can he? Burke won that matchup two out of three times. 3.) True, but everybody seems to forget that Michigan has had its share of success in the tournament in the last few years as well.

Rushthecourt.net doesn’t give a prediction for the game, but the site does tab the Michigan vs. Ohio game as a “must-watch” game. They also mention that pesky stat about defending the three-pointer.

Michigan draws Ohio, a team whose single best trait is its ability to defend the three-point line. That’s exactly what you need to do to beat Michigan. The Bobcats played at Louisville in the non-conference and nearly won before falling in overtime. D.J. Cooper and company are thinking upset. This is a must-watch game for the contrast in styles.

John Gasaway points out Michigan’s reliance on the three ball, something that won’t come as a surprise to Michigan fans and he notes will create surprises – good or bad – during the first weekend of the dance:

John Beilein has long shown a preference for perimeter-oriented offense, and this 2012 Michigan team is a fine example of its coach’s predilection. Co-leading scorers Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. have combined to make just 32 percent of their 3s, but the Wolverines have offset that relatively low success rate by minimizing turnovers (Burke, a freshman point guard, gets a lot of the credit there) and with good shooting from supporting players like Zack Novak and Evan Smotrycz. The Wolverines are a No. 4 seed in the Midwest, where they’ll play Ohio and, should they win, face either Temple, South Florida or California. If its 3s are falling Michigan has everything else in place — including and especially defense — to make it out of its pod in Nashville and proceed to the second weekend in St. Louis.

And what about the computers. Nate Silver, the political brains behind the New York Times’ Five Thirty Eight and former Baseball Prospectus analyst, has developed a model to predict the NCAA tournament. Here are the results of his model as well as Ken Pomeroy’s standard log5 predictions which say Michigan has a 1 in 208 chance of winning the tournament.

Computer ROUND OF 32 ROUND OF 16 ELITE 8 FINAL 4 FINALS CHAMPIONS
Nate Silver 71.5 41.9 13.4 5.4 1.7 0.6
Log5 70.2 40.1 15.4 5.7 1.7 0.5

Gregg Doyel calls John Beilein the best coach in the Midwest regional:

Best coach: Roy Williams and Bill Self have national titles, and so does Steve Fisher (kind of), but if I needed one coach in this regional to draw up one play to win one game, the guy holding the grease board would be Michigan’s John Beilein. And I wouldn’t think twice about it.

Stewart Mandel also praises Beilein’s coaching at Sports Illustrated and notes that Michigan is flying under the radar:

Number to Ponder: 8-6

Michigan coach John Beilein has six previous NCAA appearances at four different schools (Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan), and he’s won at least one game in every trip but the first one (1996 at Canisius). At West Virginia he reached the Elite Eight and Sweet 16. His motion offense and use of the 1-3-1 zone often confound opponents unfamiliar with him. And this, his most talented team to date in his five years in Ann Arbor — led by standout freshman Trey Burke — is flying under the radar as a No. 4 seed.

Eastern Michigan head coach Rob Murphy sides with the MAC and picks Ohio to upset the Wolverines in the first round.

I have Ohio upsetting U-M in the first game. I’m very familiar with Ohio. We beat them by 13 but they’re much better now. U-M doesn’t score a lot. They’re at the bottom in rebounding and Ohio is playing real well now. They beat Akron twice and I think Akron is a very good team. They lost to Louisville in a close game. D.J. Cooper is thebest point guard in the MAC. They defend and rebound, and they have experience.

For the most part, Michigan seems to be a team flying under the radar in the Midwest bracket. Compared with other matchups, such as No. 14 Belmont vs. No. 3 Georgetown, No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue, No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State, and even No. 15 Detroit vs. No. 2 Kansas, Michigan and Ohio just aren’t getting a lot of attention so far. It’s certainly not the sexiest game in the bracket. Still, there are clearly some intriguing story lines in this one.

The bottom line seems to be that most writers and bloggers won’t go as far as to say that Ohio will beat Michigan but it’s hard to overlook Ohio after their success in the tournament two years ago. Most analysts seem to be grudgingly picking Michigan when they make their predictions on the game and most don’t sound too sure about it.

  • Hail

    Hearing about how well Ohio defends the three in every preview article is about as tiresome as hearing about how we’ll confuse teams in the tournament with our rarely used this year,
    1-3-1. It’s just lazy journalism.

    I actually believe all these media write-ups and Ohio’s upset against Georgetown help us out in not overlooking them.

    • Michaeltheorignal

      You know what it comes down to?  Balls.  Simply balls.  Do you crack under the pressure.  And guess what, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have been at this thing for four years, and they ain’t goin’ out like lambs.  Novak isn’t going to let this team lose.  And Burke.  Oh yeah.  He’s a baller.  Dont’ underestimate this team.  Bring it.

  • ScottGoBlue

    Did y’all know that Nate Silver is from East Lansing?  He’s a dangerous basketball player, too.

    I’m rolling my eyes at all the Ohio upset talk.  No one does their homework on our team or our coach, they just read the talking points.  I was thinking along the same lines as Stewart Mandel last night, got on Beilein’s Wikipedia page, and added up his post-season results.  He’s 8-6 in the NCAA, which doesn’t sound overwhelmingly impressive, but remember that you need to win that first game to even be .500 in a given year.  As Mandel noted, Beilein has won all but one of his first-round games, 1996 Canisius being the one exception.

    What if we add in Beilein’s NIT record to fill out how he does in the post-season? Well, he’s 14-6 in the NIT, again winning all but one first-round game (Canisius 1994). Beilein’s (Division 1) teams have been in 12 post-season tournaments in 19 years, posting a 22-12 record, and haven’t lost an opening round game since 1996.

    So, I like our chances against Ohio and then whomever we’d play in the next round. Between Beilein’s track record, his opponent preparation, and leadership from Novak and Douglass and Burke, I’m confident we’ll pull this one out.  The probable Sweet 16 match-up with UNC is scary, but we’ll worry about that later.

    Go Blue!

    • Izmatt18

      Agreed. Their reasons for Ohio beating Michigan are basically limited to “Ohio defends the three well and Michigan shoots the three in great abundance.” It’s not a logical argument in the least, especially if one has watched Michigan play enough to know how well Hardaway can shoot just outside of the paint and how well Burke can drive to the basket. Those two aspects will certainly be key, however.

  • Chris

    I love to hear the Eastern coach say: “Michigan doesn’t score alot.” Maybe that’s because we play in the Big Ten?  I would love to see how much Michigan could score if they played in the M.A.C.  

    • Chris

      Also I predict a high scoring game against Ohio.  Similar to the Oakland game at the Palace back in December. 

    • MH_20

       That is some seriously lazy “analysis” by the EMU coach.

  • Stephencsprague

    Interesting history about Beilein:
    Has never lost to a lower seeded team in six previous trips to the tournament.
    The lowest seed he lost to was 11th seeded Washington in 1998 – when he was coaching 14th seeded Richmond.
    His last four trips have ended by a loss to a one seed (Duke last year), a two seed (Oklahoma three years ago), a 2 seed (Texas in 2006) and a 4 seed (Louisville in 2005).

    His teams are typically well prepared – his only first round loss was with Canisius in 1996 – a 13 seed that lost to Rick Majerus’s Utah team led by Keith Van Horn.

    If you are looking for an upset this is not the match-up to focus on.

    • rlcBlue

      This season is a turning point for Michigan and John Beilein. This is the first time Michigan has spent the entire season ranked since 1993-1994. This is the first time one of Beilein’s teams has been seeded into the Sweet 16. The question is whether the coach and the team can fulfill the raised expectations as well as they have exceeded expectations in the past.

      Many of the “experts” strongly prefer teams that have NBA-level athletes – look at how many people are still on the Connecticut bandwagon or are expecting Memphis to give Sparty a major struggle. So when they saw Michigan’s game against OSU – for some of them perhaps the first time they’ve paid attention to Michigan all season – they immediately put Michigan in the “upset candidate” bucket.

      They’re still the same team. One thing I’ve been very impressed by with this team is how well they focus on the game coming up. I expect them to beat Ohio, but I don’t know how close a game the Bobcats will make it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-D-Puckett/504378234 Alex D Puckett

    vegas is trying to make money here, theres alot of people calling for the upset…i have michigan by 12 i dont think it will be close…i hope we stay under the radar…GO BLUE!

  • Izmatt18

    I don’t think Beilein will allow this team to be fazed by all this upset talk. The commentators are just bandwagon jumping to try to predict upsets. The upsets that generally end up coming are the ones which were not even on their radar. I don’t mind the underdog status, but I am getting annoyed by all the generalizations about this team made by the talking heads.

    • Hail

      Exactly…everybody picked Belmont over Wisconsin last year, and Wisky pretty easily handled them. Nobody called the Murray St. upset over Louisville or VCU’s run.

      • Fvsdevin

        Was it Morehead State not Murray St. that beat Louisville?  Murray St beat Vandy a few years ago I think. 

        • Hail

          Yep, you’re 100% correct, thanks. I switched the teams. It was Morehead St. that beat Louisville last year and Murray St. that beat Vandy a couple years ago.

    • Kevin in GR

       I think the other thing is that the “experts” have Saturday’s nationally televised lost to OSU fresh in their minds, so they’re negative on UM. If you look back at how well they’ve played after losses, I think there’s some merit to that and is encouraging to keep in mind for UM fans and “experts”.

  • MFan15

    John Beilein is an amazing coach. He is a strategy man who does not rely on the pure talent of his athletes. I believe that when he prepares for a team, he truly prepares (i.e. OSU, MSU wins). This team is a 4 seed for a reason, Go Blue!

  • Mistersuits

    Four days of rest is a great amount. Not too much that you lose your playing rhythm but not too little that our guys can’t get re-charged. Take care of business in Round 1 by not having Burke have to play 45 minutes and I like our chances to make it to the sweet 16 very much.

    And if you had told me that before the season we’d have a sweet-16 appearance and a regular season big ten co-champs I would have been thrilled.

  • Sarah

    Doug Gotlieb…says ohio will beat michigan because of experience nad 3 point defense.

  • Fvsdevin

    Hey, I nabbed this quote from Mgoblog, it’s about 3 point defense. 

    “Three-point defense. Pomeroy has dedicated a series of posts this fall to the idea that three point D is basically luck and that the real number to look at is the number of threes conceded. The Bobcats are great at the former (19th nationally, 30%) and not good at the latter (36% of opponent shots are from three, 261st)”

  • Fresh

    not only will the coaching staff have these gusy ready, so will novak and stu…..doesnt’ michigan have 2 seniors in which this will be their 3rd tournament, along with multiple others that will be at least their 2nd, I don’t know how some of these pigs come up with this stuff about experience.  Michigan has experience leverage, talent leverage, coaching leverage, leadership leverage…….plenty of dummies out there

  • section13row15

    I think I’ll take Burke over whatever exoerience DJ Cooper has. Let’s embarrass them like we did to Tennessee last year!

  • Izmatt18

    Every commentator I’ve watched on ESPN has predicted Ohio University over Michigan. I honestly can’t imagine why — I think it’s because of our lackluster performance against Ohio State. It very well may be good being the underdog and viewed as an easy 4-seed. Stu and Zak will provide the will for this team to go as far as possible.

  • UM4LIFE

    if you give beilen 5 days to prep for a game i like our chances ask Clemson and Tennesee