What They’re Saying: National writers weigh in on Michigan’s tournament chances

Michigan 72, Ohio State 69-8
Dustin Johnston

The Midwest Region was quickly labeled the most challenging in the NCAA tournament on Sunday night. Three of last year’s Final Four teams are in the Midwest  and the bracket is filled with blue bloods like Duke, Louisville and Kentucky along with undefeated Wichita State. Michigan drew a two seed, but won’t have a cakewalk back to the Final Four. Here’s a rundown of assorted media reactions to Michigan’s draw, region and Final Four chances.

Pat Forde on Michigan:

Michigan (21). Pomeroy offensive rank: 3. Pomeroy defensive rank: 103. Strengths: Few teams can shoot from the perimeter like the Wolverines, who have up to six dangerous 3-point bombers. They have also been excellent in late-game execution, which is essential at tournament time. John Beilein has done masterful work remodeling this team after the early loss of center Mitch McGary, and a return Final Four trip would not be a surprise. Concerns: That defensive ranking is glaring – but Michigan was similarly ranked last year and made the title game. Few teams are as battle-tested as the Big Ten regular-season champions.

CBS Sports picks Arizona State to make the Sweet 16:

The lowest-seeded school to make the Sweet 16 will be … Arizona State. If last impressions are lasting, you think I’m nuts right now. The Sun Devils lost back-to-back games to close the regular season then got blown out by Stanford on Thursday in the Pac-12 tournament. But Jahii Carson is good enough to get hot and spark a few upsets, and Michigan seems more beatable than Wichita State, Duke or Louisville.

Much more from around the internet after the jump. 

John Gasaway is selling the Arizona State-Texas winner, advising you not to pick them to advance to the Sweet 16:

The Sun Devils caught a break in being bracketed with a Longhorns team that did not perform well late in the season. Still, ASU ranked No. 9 in Pac-12 play in points per possession, as Herb Sendek’s men connected on just 45 percent of their 2-pointers. ASU also stays off the offensive glass as a matter of stylistic preference. Sendek’s defense is good, but it won’t be good enough to overcome an under-powered offense.

As for Texas, last week I put together lists of the 10 hottest and coldest late-season teams in the country, and let’s just say Rick Barnes’ team was No. 1 in one of those rankings. Not a good sign heading into the tournament. Worry all you want about Michigan’s defense, but the Wolverines should be able to handle the Texas-ASU winner.

Jerry Palm and Gregg Doyel picked Michigan to make the Final Four. Michigan has 30/1 odds to win the tournament, per Vegas Insiders. The Midwest region has the toughest four seeds, but the lower seeded teams aren’t as good. Here’s a good graphical look at how far teams are being picked to advance.

NBC Sports names Nik Stauskas as a player that you want to have the ball in crunch time:

4) Nik Stauskas (Michigan): There aren’t many perimeter shooters better than Stauskas, who’s shooting 47.6% from the field and 44.9% from beyond the arc. And his improved ability to beat teams off the dribble has made Stauskas a tougher cover in his sophomore season. He’s definitely a player to trust in the final minutes of a tight game.

Michigan would have been a No. 1 seed in the East if it beat Michigan State.

Mike DeCourcy picks Duke to survive the Midwest bracket at the Sporting News:

Best potential team matchup: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Duke in the Sweet 16. Yes, of course, you saw this before and it was not close. The Michigan team that went into Cameron was not as fluid and confident as this team. And the game will be in Lucas Oil Stadium, which is a good deal less intimate and should be a bit more neutral in terms of audience support. Plus there’s the fact that neither of these teams is much on defense—Duke is No. 102 in efficiency, Michigan 104—so it could be a run-and-gun, run-up-the-score affair.

The pick: Duke. The only team in the region with a similar talent level is Kentucky, which might never be a concern for the Blue Devils. Indeed, Michigan can score with anybody, and Duke will have trouble dealing with that. But Michigan’s defensive issues are just as profound and its talent is a smidge lighter.

Draft Express hits on the NBA Draft implications of Michigan’s opening round pod:

Jahii Carson will need to rev into high gear if he’s to ignite his faltering draft stock. The speedster has struggled with efficiency both inside and outside the arc as of late, with question marks about his off-court intangibles also taking a toll on his stock. Approaching the final games of his college career, regardless of the result of this weekend, the best way for him to get back on track with scouts is to win games. A matchup against an overseeded Texas team which has been in a tailspin as of late is a great place to start, but a likely contest with #2 Michigan will be very difficult for anyone to handle.

Nik Stauskas is one of the best offensive players in college basketball, but fellow backcourt mate Caris LeVert has some nice buzz going after a very strong showing in the Big Ten portion of Michigan’s schedule. He looks like more of a 2015 prospect at the moment, but a deep March run could change that potentially.

The newly re-launched FiveThirtyEight gives Michigan a 14.2% chance at reaching the Final Four.

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Myron Medcalf predicts that no Big Ten teams will make it to Dallas:

No Big Ten team in Dallas — In recent seasons, the Big Ten has been anointed as the premier conference in college basketball. And it’s hard to argue against that, if we’re talking about the regular season. But the league still hasn’t collected a national championship since Michigan State won the crown in 2000. That drought will continue, even though Tom Izzo has taken every four-year player he’s coached at MSU (see Keith Appling and Adreian Payne) to the Final Four. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin all have a shot, but it won’t happen this year.

Michael Beller writes that the Midwest is the most overrated region, but says Duke and Michigan are legit contenders:

Michigan and Duke, the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the region, respectively, are both legitimate threats to make the Final Four, but the Shockers will only have to beat one at most to get to Dallas, and they reached last year’s Final Four by knocking off both the No. 1 and 2 seeds in their region. It feels safe to narrow the Midwest’s number of contenders to reach the last weekend in April to just three teams: the Shockers, Wolverines and Blue Devils. That makes it the weakest of the four regions.

Eamonn Brennan calls Michigan a title threat, but also an early upset candidate:

Michigan (13): Michigan is the inverse of Cincinnati and San Diego State, a flowing, gorgeous offensive team hampered by its frequent defensive lapses. But last season, the Wolverines entered the tournament with a top-five offense, a so-so defense and a singular perimeter star and nearly won the national title. Nik Stauskas might be more productive than Trey Burke was last season. Michigan could suffer an upset early, but it could just as easily storm its way to Dallas.

  • Chezaroo

    Interesting to see Draft Express comments on Caris. As stated before nothing will surprise me after the season is over. That’s why you have to live for the now and seize the opportunity given you. Go Blue, let’s take it up a notch!!

    • guestavo

      If Caris leaves this year then it means we made it to the F4 so it would mean the opportunity was seized.

      • Chezaroo

        Hopefully! I’m sure getting the impression that a lot of scouts are starting to think he is the best pro prospect on the team, regardless of his physical needs. They love youth and potential, and that is a very short shelf life. You, Kam, and myself ( along with others ) have been his advocate for a long time!! I not sure that even a first week flameout ( heaven forbid ) would deter him if he hears what he wants.

    • Cory

      We could win the national title and I still think Caris would stay. He’d still be only 20 years old in a 2015 draft that is projected to be much weaker than this year’s. Great chance for him to break out in this tournament though. How weird would it be if Nik and Caris declared for the draft and Glen and Mitch stayed?

    • Toni

      Can someone share these comments? I am having a hard time finding them.

      • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

        They are in the post above…

  • tgio24

    Is Michael Beller oblivious to a certain school named Louisville???

    • guestavo

      overrated

    • camblue

      Agreed but there’s also a reason Louisville is a 4 seed. Look at their schedule and tell me their most impressive win. A win over 5 seed Cincy, or a bunch of wins over 7 seed U Conn? Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re still a contender, but the collective freakout over their seed is a little ridiculous. They probably deserve a three seed. So big deal it’s one seed line off.

  • MLaw

    Frustrating to confirm that we were a win against MSU from being the 1 in the East. Hard to say what else would have changed, but I would say our odds would have been better at an Elite 8 or Final 4. Anything could happen, but we got a stiff bracket after the first two games.

    Get through the first weekend and catch a couple hot shooting nights and we could easily get back to the final four.

    • Chris

      Wouldn’t we have met Louisville a round earlier if we were a 1 seed in the East? After that we might have had to play ISU. I like our chances against ISU and Duke about the same, so I’m not sure it would’ve made a whole lot of difference, esp since we’re already heavily favored in our first and potential second games.

      • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

        Yeah I suspect Louisville would have been the 4 in the East and Michigan State would have been the 4 in the Midwest.

        • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

          Nik Stauskas is one of the best offensive players in college basketball, but fellow backcourt mate Caris LeVert has some nice buzz going after a very strong showing in the Big Ten portion of Michigan’s schedule. He looks like more of a 2015 prospect at the moment, but a deep March run could change that potentially.

  • ShamrockCat

    If we’d had Mitch this year, championship all the way. He shores up our biggest weaknesses with rebounding and big defensive presence. Extra scoring ability is a bonus. if only. Amazing what the team has done without him – we can still beat anybody if we’re tearing it up offensively, but with Mitch, we would have been a juggernaut. C’est la vie and GO BLUE!

  • countourzealous

    I like our region. You have to beat good teams in March, it’s that simple. We are a team that has played other very, very good teams throughout the season.

    Last tournament, we went through VCU, Kansas and Syracuse to get to the national title game. Remember VCU, and how their havoc was going to strangle our offense?

    Credit to Burke for single-handedly winning Kansas (my heart always races when I watch the replay of the final 2 minutes of that game… talk about playing FOR EVERY SECOND of the game). Or what about Boeheim’s 1-3-1, which Beilein had never defeated before? Aside from Walton, they’ve all been through it before. Look for us to bounce back after State in a strong way. My point is, it’s March and you have to play beyond your own abilities.

    I don’t know about you, but I want a UM-MSU final with McGary coming off the bench.

    *edit: clarity because i’m dumb sometimes

    • Chris

      Beilein said emphatically on ESPN that Mitch isn’t playing again this season. Didn’t even try to avoid answering the question, although I’d love to see him come off the bench.

      • guestavo

        Can you link it?

    • blackie6

      and florida too!

  • jakelam2116

    The good news: I think Michigan can handle the first two games.

    The bad news: Duke would be difficult in the Sweet 16, and if they were to win that, the Elite 8 matchup would be incredibly tough whether WSU, Louisville or even Kentucky.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    However, it really does sting to think Michigan could be sitting in UVA’s shoes (although probably with Louisville as the 4) in a much easier region if it had won yesterday. Crazy that one game could make for such a (at least on paper) more difficult road.

  • Little Perm

    Revenge Tour 2014 – Dook, then Louisville, then ‘Zona, and finally ISU. Going to be sweet.

    • captincork

      Would be cool. Could also end up being msu instead of isu.

      • Little Perm

        We don’t need revenge over Sparty.

  • AADave

    Not to be a downer but I don’t see us reaching the Final Four this year. I’m anticipating an exit in the sweet sixteen. Why? We just aren’t a good defensive team and lack adequate depth inside. We saw what our lack of depth inside did to us in the last MSU game. Our bigs got into a little foul trouble early and we were screwed. On the other hand, we don’t seem likely to face any serious matchup problems for the first few games. So I could still see us making a run to the Final Four. If our bigs aren’t fouled out of the game by the refs and our offense is running optimally, we are the best team in the country.

    • mistersuits

      Three fouls all on the same possession, the second possession of the game, I think qualifies more than a “little” foul trouble.

      Thankfully we’ve seen the last of Kitts and Steratore for the rest of the year.

      • AADave

        Also a good point. Unfortunately, officiating can make the difference in a game – as we saw in the championship game last year. This year, we have to hope the refs don’t get whistle-happy on our bigs early on. Look for opponents to push it inside and test out the refs. If the refs are competent and don’t put our bigs in foul trouble early, I like our chances against anyone. But that’s a big if.

    • kam

      to be fair if we “lose in the sweet 16″ that would probably be against duke and they are small just like us. So our bigs wouldnt cost us a game their probably.

      • AADave

        Good point. As I stated, “we don’t seem likely to face any serious matchup problems for the first few games.” But against a well-coached team (Duke) our lack of interior depth and defense can be exploited.

        • guestavo

          Duke also has a lack of defense or interior depth. We are pretty much the same team.

          • David Remmler

            You have a point but we’re not exactly the same team. Duke has two 6-8 forwards in Hood and Parker who can do some serious damage inside. Parker may be the best player in the country and looked very very good against Virginia. Then they have 7-0 Marshall Plumlee coming off the bench. We don’t have anybody that size.

          • guestavo

            I’d take the symmetry of Nik/Caris/GR3 over Parker/Hood. Virginia is a great defense team but it’s not like UM hasn’t beat their share of elite defensive squads this year. Plumlee is a non-factor in my eyes.

          • Cory

            Plus also remember, in the first game we had a freshman point guard who seemed to be overwhelmed by the moment…..Walton Jr won’t be a non factor in a potential rematch.

          • David Remmler

            You have a point but we’re not

  • Chazer

    Anything can happen but I like Beilein’s ability to get his team to peak at the end of the year. This team is battle tested and built for the tournament. Watch how much more they run in the next two games vs the B1G. Walton is really fast with the ball and we have explosive wings, really tough to match up with. Throw in the 1-3-1 and 3 point shooters and we can beat anyone.

    I think Wichita has a tough run and the committee wants to see them beat good teams to get to the FF. The MW will be a battle and that’s the way it should be!

    Go Blue!

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