NCAA Tournament: Michigan vs. South Dakota State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56 - 29
Bryan Fuller

MICH 71 1.18 28-55 51% 19-35 54% 9-20 45% 6-9 67% 8 21 12 9 6 3 8
SDSU 56 .93 23-52 44% 19-33 58% 4-19 21% 6-8 75% 8 21 13 12 3 1 10

Nate Wolters didn’t wait long to show off a sampling of his offensive skillset in front of a pro-Michigan crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday evening. The 6-foot-4 senior crossed over Trey Burke and buried a long jumper over the likely National Player of the Year, giving South Dakota State an early 8-7 lead.

The Burke-Wolters matchup had been hyped and analyzed for much of the last week and for just a moment it looked as if the matchup was going to materialize.  But from that point on the oft-questioned Wolverine defense was able to slow down the star guard. Wolters would make just one of his final 11 field goal attempts over the next 35 minutes and Michigan would waltz to a 15-point NCAA tournament opening victory.

Michigan’s star guard wasn’t much better but he had more help. Trey Burke finished with just six points on 2-of-12 shooting (but did have seven assists) and left the game bruised and battered after a nasty fall in the second half but his teammates were up to the challenge. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III played their best offensive games in over a month, scoring 21 points apiece, while Mitch McGary seized the moment in a surprise start to finish with 13 points and nine rebounds. 


Michigan had a dismal six minute scoreless stretch early in the first half that featured a lot of passing around the perimeter and not much else. But other than that the Wolverines scored the ball effectively against a weak Jackrabbit defense. The Wolverines scored 1.18 points per trip for the game and a superb 1.32 points per possession in the final 20 minutes. There was nothing secretive about Michigan’s strong performance offensively; the Wolverines simply hit a lot of open shots. Michigan made 54% of its twos and 45% of its threes an impressive 59% effective field goal percentage – its best shooting performance since its January 17th win at Minnesota.

Michigan only rebounded eight of its 27 missed shots for 11 second chance points and didn’t turn the ball over often or get to the free throw line much. However, the Wolverines were able to push the ball. The game as a whole wasn’t fast, at just 60 possessions, but the Wolverines manufactured some easy baskets. Despite botching some early lobs and transition opportunities in the first half, Michigan finished with eight fast break points and countless others in the secondary break.

The Wolverines were able to push the tempo because their defense was finally able to get some stops. For only the third time in the last 10 games, Michigan held its opposition below a point per possession. The Jackrabbits managed just .93 points per trip for the game and were never able to get Nate Wolters heated up. Michigan did a good job of defending the three and cleaning up the defensive glass but still had its fair share of defensive breakdowns. The Jackrabbits shot 58% on 2-point attempts for the game, a sign that there are still some issues with Michigan’s interior rotations.

Next up is a Saturday date with ‘Havoc’. VCU smacked a depleted Akron squad by 46 points on Thursday evening to setup a polarizing round of 32 match up. The Rams force more turnovers than any team in the country while Michigan turns the ball over less that any team in Division I. Saturday’s turnover battle is likely to determine who moves on to the Sweet 16. Tip off is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. (CBS) on Saturday afternoon at the Palace.

Michigan 71, South Dakota State 56 - 24
Bryan Fuller

Player Bullets

  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson’s offensive explosion to open the second half – he scored Michigan’s first 11 and 13 of its first 15 of the second period – set the tone in the second half and allowed the Wolverines to pull away. Robinson’s three triples in the first four minutes of the second matched his total made threes over his last 14 games. Robinson wasn’t just stroking jump shots. He grabbed six rebounds (two offensive) and also did an impressive job defensively when switched onto Nate Wolters. I wrote in the preview that Robinson had to exploit Jordan Dykstra’s defensive woes and he was certainly the key to the Wolverine win.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway carried the Michigan offense when it couldn’t get anything started in the first half. His four first half made threes all came at critical junctures and he finished an impressive 8-of-13 (5-7 3pt) from the field. Hardaway’s hot and cold nature has been well established but if he can shoot the ball like this Michigan is capable of making a serious tournament run. Hardaway spent significant time switched onto Wolters and did his job.
  • Mitch McGary: McGary might not always know what he’s trying to do but you can bank on him giving it maximum effort. His energy is contagious and it was on full display from the opening tip. He was active offensively early, runs the floor extremely well and still has an uncanny ability – for a 6-foot-10, 250 pound player – to come up with steals. McGary left his finger prints all over the game and yes, he’ll make the occasional turnover or force up a couple of shots, but his ceiling is so much higher than any other option Michigan can put on the floor at the five.
  • Trey Burke: Burke didn’t pick an ideal time to play his worst game of the season but it might have been a blessing in disguise for the Wolverines. Burke couldn’t buy a basket, finishing 2-of-12 (0-5 3pt) from the field, but did end up with seven assists to two turnovers by the final horn. Burke obviously is capable of better and missed a lot of shots that he’s knocked down all season. His teammates shouldered the load today but the Wolverines will need him to be at his best on Saturday against VCU’s ‘Havoc’ full court press.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas finished 3-of-9 (1-4 3pt) from the floor for eight points. His bucket (and free throw) immediately after Trey Burke went down was critical. Michigan was up just six points at that point and most everyone in the building assumed it might be without its best player for the remainder of the game. Stauskas’s basket sparked an 8-0 Michigan run, without Burke, that helped put the game out of reach.
  • Jon Horford: Horford had a basket, a nice hook in the lane, and four rebounds in 14 minutes. He was strong with the ball and did a solid job on the glass but he got lost three or four times and allowed Fiegen to pop open for a mid-range 17-footer.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan not only didn’t start, he played just one minute in the game. He looked alright on the defense but his playing time speaks volumes. McGary and Horford both played great and deserved their minutes but Morgan clearly isn’t right, something Beilein hypothesized is due to health.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht stepped onto the floor when Trey Burke went down with his nasty fall and kept things moving smoothly as the Wolverines made a run.
  • Caris LeVert: It seems like LeVert has looked rattled offensively since his big game against Michigan State. He’s missing jumpers and seems to have the slightest bit of indecision before shooting or driving; passing or going to the rim.
  • MikeInOhio

    SDST’swion @ New Mexico made me nervous for this game. After yesterday’s results, I think it says more about New Mexico than SDST. Congrats to JB and the boys (and Amaker too!) on advancing.
    Dylan, great work leading up to and during the game. One day prep for VCU? Hope Beilein and the staff, and yourself, can get it done.

    • Beilein and his staff certainly have the much greater task :-)

    • Indiana_Matt

      Man, I think we have a great opportunity against the HAVOC. We break that pressure and McGary and Robinson could end up with dunk after dunk. Go Blue!

      • Mark Worthley

        Hopefully they connect on those alley-oops.

    • ChathaM

      I heard Greg Kampe (on the Fox Sunday show last week) almost jokingly repeating that SDSU won at New Mexico, and I couldn’t figure out whether he meant that Michigan or UNM might be in trouble. He seemed to be in a playful kind of mood the entire time, so I’m thinking it may have been the latter.

  • Chazer

    This should be a great game as perhaps the best back court in the country tries to break down the full court press. This will be one game were Big Blue will be glad we have the best point in the country and 3 very good 6′-6″wings. Our wings can really run so I dont expect UM to sit back after they break the press. We will be dangerous because we run under control with athletes who will attack on the run or kick it out for the 3 ball. It certainly didn’t seem like Akron had the horse power to attack ….I think UM will!
    They still need to play great D….but this will be fun to watch.

    Go Blue and love the confidence from the kids. They are getting that swagger back and Trey will take care of the ball. Looking forward to watching the run.

    Go Blue!

  • robpollard

    Great game by THJ. I had been down on him b/c of his struggles in the 2nd half of the season, but he really stepped up last night. All around, as well-shooting, defense and rebounding.

    Also props to Beilein – starting McGary was clearly the right call, as he gave Michigan production & energy right from the start (which has sometimes been a problem for UM in big games). That said, I hope Morgan’s issues – mental, physical or otherwise – can get fixed quickly. Perhaps we can beat VCU without him, but I can’t see us going against KU and having much of a chance without his defense.

    I’ll worry about that later – should be a high-scoring game against VCU!

  • robpollard

    Oh one other thing – was the crowd as lame in person as it was on TV? The only time they seemed to get loud/into it for any sustained period was late in the first half, and that got quieted down by a Wolters’ 3.

    We must have had at least 7500 fans there (guessing), but it sounded like an early season exhibition game on TV. Perhaps it was b/c the crowd wasn’t miked well? Or was it just a wine & cheese crowd that wasn’t going to get excited about anything besides alley oop dunks?

    • It’s tough to explain an NCAA tournament crowd without seeing it first hand.

      Michigan had a lot of fans there… the crowd was announced as a sell out (19k+) but it probably wasn’t full. A majority of the fans were maize and blue but you have the empty sections around the court for VCU and Akron fans as well as a section by the court for SDSU fans.

      It’s also a massive arena and there just isn’t a lot of cohesion. I think Michigan’s fans were probably louder in the second half than the Michigan State fans were in the first session; although the game was obviously a bit closer.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    Not to toot my own horn, but I said before the game that our biggest advantage over SDSU was 2-5. I’ll say the same thing about VCU — our biggest hope is that we have great press-breaking tools 2-5. Nik is a very good ball handler and will make VCU pay for leaving him open. GRIII ain’t a bad handler for a four, and can finish very well. McGary is a very good passing big man. Don’t be surprised if JB gets him the ball at times in the middle of the floor near halfcourt and he fires off passes for layups or open 3s.
    Does it help to have Trey at PG against VCU? It sure does. And as long as Trey makes the right play, which can mean giving up the ball, he’ll be a huge asset. Could very well be our biggest asset and have a huge game. But this isn’t Trey against the VCU press. If it is, we’ll be in trouble.

    • Adam St Patrick

      Yeah — big man in the middle to break the press. I didn’t think of it, but McGary is PERFECT for that.

      Another thing is to be patient on offense. Take the transition when it’s there, but otherwise, be the methodical and patient team Michigan can be on half-court possessions. Don’t give VCU too many chances to do its thing.