What They’re Saying: National writers weigh in on Michigan’s Sweet 16 odds

Dylan Burkhardt

DSC_2087When the NCAA tournament brackets were released just over a week ago, many had Michigan as a trendy upset pick and VCU as a trendy underdog Final Four team. Michigan handled South Dakota State and VCU by a combined 40 points as it cruised through its opening round games into the Sweet 16.

Michigan, 10-1 all time in the Sweet 16, has gone from an oft-questioned high seeded team to a trendy pick in the tournament’s second weekend. Here’s a run down of what national writers are saying about Michigan’s matchup with Kansas and the Wolverines’ chances of making a Final Four run. (Photo: Bryan Fuller)

Andy Staples at Sports Illustrated asks whether Michigan can continue its impressive play, calls Kansas-Michigan the matchup of the regional and picks Michigan to win the region.

Burning Question

Can Michigan duplicate its sterling first-weekend performance? With the exception of an off day for Burke in the round of 64, the Wolverines clicked in just about every way in Auburn Hills. Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. each averaged 17.5 points. Burke distributed and defended well. The Wolverines found a new weapon in freshman center Mitch McGary, who joined the starting lineup for the South Dakota State game and dominated on the glass and in parts of the game that don’t show up in the box score. Michigan hasn’t always been able to make all these pieces work together seamlessly in the same game. It will have to do it for a third consecutive time to beat Kansas and advance to the Elite Eight.

More from CBS, ESPN, Nate Silver and Ken Pomeroy after the jump.

Michigan coaches and players made the radio rounds as well (podcasts linked). John Beilein was on WTKA and Mike and Mike while Mitch McGary was on WDFNTim Hardaway Jr. was on Jim Rome and Nik Stauskas was on TSN Radio in Canada.

Michigan’s NBA sons were also featured on this video released by the NCAA.

Myron Medcalf reseeds the 16 teams remaining in the tournament at ESPN and slots Michigan as the second best team.

2. Michigan (1-seed; was No. 4 in the South): After Michigan’s quick departure from the Big Ten tournament, there were some concerns about the Wolverines’ postseason potential. Those concerns were magnified on Selection Sunday, when they were paired with dangerous mid-major South Dakota State and placed on a collision course with VCU. But Michigan had few problems with either. The Wolverines held Nate Wolters to 10 points (3-for-14) in a double-digit win, and they scored 78 points and committed just 12 turnovers in a 25-point victory over VCU’s “Havoc” attack.

CBS also reseeded the tournament and put Michigan at No. 5 overall.

Jeff Goodman notes at CBS that an All-Big Ten Final Four is still a possibility and calls Michigan the most impressive team of the opening weekend:

Most impressive: Michigan. The nation’s best point guard, Trey Burke, struggled in a win over South Dakota State and also had seven turnovers against VCU. However, John Beilein’s team pulled away from Nate Wolters and the Jackrabbits and then pummeled Shaka Smart and VCU. Freshman Mitch McGary was dominant against VCU and Tim Hardaway Jr. did a nice job handling the Rams’ pressure.

Goodman also goes in depth with Mitch McGary:

He shocked many in the recruiting world when he chose to play for Michigan over Duke, and he heard plenty of skepticism regarding his decision. Then McGary got off to a slow start this season and was ineffective due to his poor conditioning. McGary said he was all the way up to 273 pounds at one point because of poor eating habits.

“He couldn’t play more than a couple minutes without being winded,” Hardaway Jr. said.

“He never could have done what he did today,” added Burke.

McGary logged a career-high 34 minutes and couldn’t be seen huffing and puffing at any point, even after he hurled his body to the floor with 2:37 left and the Wolverines in front by 28 points. He gave the Michigan Wolverines that dimension they have lacked all season, a relentless enforcer who will stand toe-to-toe with any big man in the country.

Sports on Earth questions Michigan’s (McGary’s) consistency:

Make no mistake: A reliable McGary gives Michigan a complete roster, and while that roster is very young, it is also capable of wining a national title.

Reliable is the key word, though. While Saturday afternoon felt like a revelation for Michigan in that their talented recruit made a giant leap forward, let’s remember that the matchup was quite favorable. VCU is very good and was coming off a blowout win over Akron, but Michigan presented a poor matchup because, led by Trey Burke, it had the personnel at guard to give VCU’s aggressive, undersized defense trouble. To his credit, McGary took advantage and took care of the rest.

Nate Silver notes that Michigan’s championship hopes are up to 3.8 percent from 2.5 percent.

Michigan (up to 3.8 percent from 2.5 percent) Michigan could easily enough have been a No. 1 seed had it played better down the stretch, and it was probably underseeded as a No. 4 even with the losses that it took. In general, however, we’ve found that late-season performance doesn’t tell you that much more than early-season performance when it comes to tournament play – and Michigan’s slump has not extended into the postseason. It was a break for the Wolverines to play in Auburn Hills, Mich., but their domination of a tough Virginia Commonwealth team on Saturday was nevertheless impressive, and they should be thought of as the equivalent of a strong No. 2 seed right now.

Ken Pomeroy has Michigan with slightly better odds than Kansas in his updated log5 predictions:

Seed Team        Elite8 Final4 Final  Champ  1 in…   Prev
 3S  Florida      94.9   68.2   46.4   29.2   3      24.1
 1MW Louisville   85.1   58.1   43.5   25.3   4      20.1
 1E  Indiana      66.8   48.8   23.8   13.0   8      15.2
 2W  Ohio St.     65.3   48.3   20.2    8.5   12      7.0
 2MW Duke         53.7   21.1   12.7    5.3   19      4.0
 3MW Michigan St. 46.3   16.7    9.5    3.7   27      2.8
 4S  Michigan     51.2   16.2    7.6    3.2   31      1.9
 1S  Kansas       48.8   15.0    6.9    2.8   36      2.8

Michigan players are moving up the Draft Express top-100 ranking. Burke now checks in at No. 10, Glenn Robinson III at No. 20, Mitch McGary at No. 46 and Tim Hardaway Jr. at No. 83.

  • ChathaM

    Any insight into why Hardaway isn’t seen as a better NBA prospect? He has quickness and size, solid shot mechanics (including NBA footwork off the dribble), and can defend pretty well one-on-one. I believe it’s time for him to move to the next level, but draft projections like this make me wonder whether it’s best to return for another season at UM.

    What do you think is missing from his game, or do you agree with me that he’s underrated?

    • Victors

      The one skill he needs to improve on, is his ball handling skills. The kid will get some real NBA players on him, and watch him fold…Not confident in his own dribbling within hiself….

      • Chazer

        IMO he has greatly improved his ball handling but he’s 6’6″ and needs more work. Not really a true point but another year could get the ball in his hands more if JB chose that option. Would like to see him return and raise his stock like Oladipo…..

        More than likely Walton gets the point and we have the wings…..Irvin, GRIII, Niki 3 ball, THJ……BUT if they make a run to the final Four I think it all changes.

        If you get to the finals someones stock will rise, especially on the big stage. Win it all then THJ probably had a great two weeks as well as GRIII and Mitch! Then you could have major fallout….no reason to stay.

        Go Blue!

      • Mith

        What on Earth does “Not confident in his own dribbling within himself” mean?

      • Kenny

        From that perspective, staying another year helps. With Burke leaving, i see the possibility of having Timmy handles ball more even both Spike and Walton are capable running the offense. I think that Timmy is an above average ball handler as the VCU game showed, yet he does look a bit odd every time out there with the ball. Maybe it was simply the psychology, living under the shadow of his father ever since he picked up the ball. If he gets opportunity to handle the ball more often, he might be able to break that psychology.

    • MLaw

      This has also really been mystifying for me. I love Tim and I’m sure his plan was probably to leave early, but if he goes to the committee and gets a second round grade, which is very probable, then I think he stays for his senior year.

      If he does stay for his senior year, we have our captain for next year who will be a true star. If he gets up to 75/50/40 shooting % I’m sure he would be a first rounder even if he is still seen as “just a shooter”.

      • Guest

        Which is part of the reason why Manny Harris left after his Junior year. If your grade won’t change from JR to SR year, you’re better served leaving a year early so you can get to the 2nd contract sooner regardless of the league you play in. In the NBA draft, team penalize you for staying for 4 years as opposed to staying for 3 years. If making money matters to THJ, he would leave.

        • MLaw

          Very true, and that is the only reason he might leave this year. I hope he doesn’t because I think it would be a mistake and would love to watch him play another year. You would hope money is less of a concern based on his dad, but you never know the situation.

          • Chazer

            Agreed but Manny was not ready and Darrius should have stayed…neither one really hit the jackpot. I still think UM will be better next year and more exposure for Jr if he stays…..Its really hard to get better on the bench in the NBA. I also think JR has become a much better defender…..and stronger. The kid is ripped.

          • Guest

            I believe that his dad have financial problems.

          • Mattski

            Not sure why this got downvoted. It’s a reminder to me that these kids face exigencies that we don’t always know about. I think that the risk of getting injured–for someone intent on playing basketball–often weighs heavily, too. I know that we want them to stay, but to tell Darius that he didn’t hit the jackpot when he’s upwards of a cool million now? When we don’t see them become big stars we say they failed, but you don’t say that about an M grad who goes out and becomes another one of 10 million lawyers, etc.

    • AADave

      It’s a mystery to me as well. I think the NBA scouts/draft predictors are just plain wrong on him. They’ve made huge mistakes many times before so it wouldn’t be unusual. I still firmly believe that he’s literally a huge steal if he slips past the lottery. As you point out, he has the size, quickness, shot mechanics and defensive ability of an NBA player. I would also add a continually improving handle and a proven ability to take it to the rim and finish. And I would also give him credit for a high basketball high IQ – he’s shown the smarts to continually improve his game.

      For comparison, he’s a far better NBA prospect than either Darius Morris or Manny Harris were.

    • AADave

      I just looked at the DraftExpress rankings. They’re ridiculous, There are numerous lesser players rated ahead of Hardaway. They include Nate Wolters (seriously???, he can score at the college level but has nowhere near the athletic ability of Hardaway) as well as a motley collection of other shorter, less physically gifted/talented guards (including a 6’0″ guard from Murray State for example) and assorted stiffs from lesser conferences. Hardaway’s a first team All Big ten player for pete’s sake – first team honors in the BEST conference in the country. And he has all the physical gifts (size and quickness) to play at the next level. Just ridiculous.

  • rlcBlue

    10-1 in the round of 16? Crap – I went to the 1.

    • jemblue

      Yeah, that shocked me as well. We really have an impressive overall tournament history.

      • gobluemd16

        Whoops, replied to the wrong post sorry

    • rdlwolverine

      1988 loss to UNC

      • rlcBlue

        I remember. I was there, up in the 300 section of the Kingdome.

  • blueinflorida

    Dylan do you have any information on tickets for the regional games this weekend? How can I get a ticket in a Michigan section? Thanks alot.

    • gobluemd16

      Look at the post three down from the top on the main UMHoops page.
      That post has ticket information, among other things.

  • beelza

    These predictons, for me are useless, unless and until the methodology is discussed in detail. The regressions, especially muli-variate regressions which isolate and weigh a given variables. The Monte carlos, etc. gotta know what people are choosing as the x and y. I mean, you run a “simulation” 50,000 times, but without knowing what the betas are, or the error term, the number of times the simulation is run is irrelevant.

    • Mattski

      If you insist.

    • Kenny

      Kenpom gives Florida 70% chance against either Michigan or Kansas, then again get about 70% in the semi’s. If this is not b888t, I don’t know what it is.

    • Kenny

      If someone has access to Kenpom’s week-to-week prediction. it is easy to perform a goodness-of-fit test to see how much his prediction is off the base.

      • beelza

        t-crit and the t-calc, I agree

      • Mattski

        Would be curious to see what such a test told you about some of his failed predictions from last week–compare with those he got right and sell your method back to him, if someone’s not already doing just that.

  • Chris in NC

    I hope it’s an all B1G final four. That’s what I have in my brackets.