Notebook: Michigan to face Wofford in NCAA tournament


Michigan State 69, Michigan 55-10
Dustin Johnston

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest bracket. The bevy of talented, dangerous teams that join them in the bracket almost makes the number one seed, Wichita State, an afterthought. Duke and Louisville are the number three and four seeds in the region, respectively.

But before Michigan can deal with those teams, it must deal with the team it faces in its first game: the Wofford Terriers of the Southern Conference.

So, Jordan Morgan, what do you know about Wofford?

“Nothing,” the redshirt senior said when asked that question after the selection show on Sunday. “Not a thing.”

His ignorance will be short-lived. John Beilein said tomorrow the team will not practice, but that it will be a “super study day” for the Wolverines. That means lots of film on the Terriers, including their Southern Conference semifinal and final games.

Beilein also admitted to not knowing much about Wofford, but he does have a connection to the team — Beilein’s former point guard at West Virginia, Darris Nichols, joined Wofford’s coaching staff this summer.

“Darris Nichols, one of the assistant coaches, is one of the smartest, brightest point guards I have ever had,” Beilein said on Sunday. “Now I wish he really didn’t understand our offense at all, but he knows everything about us, so we have a challenge with a guy on the other bench who knows a lot of what we do.”

Wofford finished second in the Southern Conference regular-season standings but won the conference tournament to send themselves to the Big Dance. The Terriers were second in their conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency and were the best team in the conference at forcing turnovers.

Michigan fine with being a two seed in the Midwest instead of a one seed in the East

Michigan has arrived at this point of the progression of its program, where the big question on Selection Sunday isn’t whether or not it will reach the NCAA tournament, but whether the Wolverines will be a one seed or a two seed. They got their answer on Sunday, with the committee deciding to give the Wolverines the two seed in the Midwest bracket.

Jordan Morgan will be going to his fourth NCAA tournament next week, which makes him the team’s resident bracket expert. He broke down the likely scenario Michigan presented the selection committee with.

“To be honest, I figured we’d get the two seed in the Midwest region, just thinking about it,” Morgan said. “I knew we were kind of on the fence with those teams that were between a one and a two. Why give us a one seed with locations that had us traveling a lot when you could give us a two seed and keep us close to home? I think that’s what happened.”

While Morgan was mulling Michigan’s seeding, John Beilein was busy not caring one ounce about it. The coach entirely dismissed the importance of seeding, along with considering the other teams in his team’s region.

“There is so much discussion on that that is just wasted effort to me,” Beilein said. “What is the big deal? Seriously. I’m sure they were trying to figure out, who are these last three seeds? Where are the first three? They’re all the same. Take the top 12 teams, and is there really much of a difference between the one, two, three … there’s not huge differences. Teams that were number one, just a month ago, in the country, are four or five seed. They’re the same teams. They’re good.”

Michigan looking to rebound quickly after loss to Michigan State in Big Ten Tournament championship

Glenn Robinson III isn’t too worried about his team bouncing back after a deflating loss to Michigan State in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament.

After all, the Wolverines faced a similar situation last season after dropping their second-round game to Wisconsin. We all know how that turned out.

“We’ll learn from it and we’ll be a better team for it,” Robinson said of the loss to the Spartans. “We had this type of game last year against Wisconsin, came back hungry and got to the championship game.”

John Beilein said that while the team was down following the loss, he saw their spirits rise when they watched the selection show.

“I think we snapped out of it like that, and we were really down after the game,” Beilein said. “And then all of a sudden, the media’s done, and then it’s, hey, let’s watch the selection show. … I’ve been in that room when you lost a championship and it meant you weren’t going anywhere or maybe the NIT. This is huge, to walk from that room and see us in the NCAA tournament, it’s terrific.”

  • mistersuits

    Wofford, 184th on KenPom (Charlotte currently sits at 176). The two teams also have very similar profiles (Wofford 238 offense, 131 defense) (Charlotte 231 offense, 133 defense).

    Wofford will play an emotionally charged game for their senior Aerris Smith who played his last game in their conference tournament and has to have career ending knee surgery.

    Ultimately Wofford rates out as only the 65th KenPom rated opponent in the field of 68 (Mt St Mary’s 190, Coastal Carolina 232, Texas Southern 237). Michigan should win this game going away.

    Michigan will need focus and fresh legs and they should come out on top, but expect feistiness in the early going from the Terriers.

  • Truth

    Good comment on Wofford from Mr Suits. I think we got stuck in the bracket of death but I guess we have no choice but to fight our way out. So let’s do this, boys. Sic’em wolverines.

    PS Anyone notice how both the establishment bracketologists and the final brackets themselves so often put Michigan/Duke and MSU/UNC in the same regions, and set up potential big-ticket rematches (see UM and Louisville)? Could it be that commercial interests, Nike/Adidas, “storylines” and TV ratings etc. play an unacknowledged role in the mysterious science of tournament selection?

    • MGoTweeter

      Re: bracket matchups. Don’t think it has anything to do with conspiracy theories. The reason the bracketologists and the actual bracket end up similar in those ways, is because of bracket rules. There are only so many places you can place teams when you are trying to keep seed integrity intact, give location preference to top four seeds and prevent certain conference rematches early in the tournament.

      • mistersuits

        They actually relaxed the conference conflicts considerably this year in an attempt to seed the tournament truer to the S-Curve. But somehow the Midwest region is absolutely stacked.

        According to officially released SCurve:
        Best 3-seed, 4-seed, 7-seed, 8-seed, 9-seed.
        2nd best 2-seed, 5-seed.

        According to KenPom (6 of the top 17 teams):
        #2, 5, 7, 13, 14, 17

        If your average bracket was weighted at 100 difficulty, based on KenPom:
        Midwest 141
        South 94
        East 94
        West 70

        • Burke_Does_Work

          When I saw the South bracket I thought we lucked out, but nope

    • Fred Z in Ann Arbor

      “Truth” — I think you are 5000% percent correct, TV matchups have a huge role in bracket placement. It absolutely is not a coincidence that UM/Duke and UM/Louisville are possible matchups. Let’s say that those matchups increase ratings for those games by 10% each. That’s 10% more ad revenue per night. That is a whole bunch of money.

  • Ken

    Michigan got the least scary segment of this “bracket of death”– that opening weekend is about as good as they could have hoped for (not that Texas or ASU aren’t capable of pulling an upset). But if the rest of the bracket holds to seeding, it’s going to be really, really tough getting by both Duke and Louisville/Wichita State in the regionals. UM’s going to need some luck, either with some bracket chaos or a couple of unconscious shooting nights.

  • Chezaroo

    Interesting to me how far away geographically the other three teams in our “pod” are from Milwaukee when compared to us. South Carolina ( Wofford ), Arizona, and Texas are a LONG way from their fan bases and should have minimal support compared to us. Hope it plays in our favor!

    • Gonna be a ton of Wisconsin fans there I suspect.

      • Chezaroo

        Good for us?

        • Meh. Not sure if they’ll root against or for us? Usually those crowds side with the underdog. But more than likely it’ll mean a fairly empty arena.

          • Chezaroo

            True, hard to tell. I actually like our chances to get out of the first weekend. I know some are predicting Texas is a difficult matchup for us, but I wouldn’t “guarantee” that they beat ASU. Either way, we have a very realistic shot at beating both. Go Blue!!

          • David DeMember

            It’s a separate ticket for the Wisconson session… (hopefully) meaning Wisky fans would need to buy seperate tickets to root against us or teams they don’t care about, and/or maybe resent (see: Arizona State football circa 2013). It’ll be interesting to see how we travel now that basketball success is sustaining and football is not.

          • True. But Saturday will be the same ticket. And I bet a lot of Wisconsin fans bought all session strips ahead of time too.

          • David DeMember

            Well in that case… let’s root for the Sun Devils to beat Texas, because I’m sure Wisky is salty about that game still haha.