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.

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