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

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan 79, Texas 65-10

Michigan cruised through the first two games of the NCAA tournament with relative ease, but still find themselves largely off the national radar. Louisville versus Kentucky is the game that everyone wants to see and Tennessee is the upstart 11-seed that everyone wants to pick. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

The Wolverines are still about what everyone thought they were. Here are some highlights from around the national media about this weekend’s regional games. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

Most national publications re-ranked the teams remaining in the tournament. CBS ranked Michigan No. 9, one spot behind Tennessee. ESPN’s Myron Medcalf slotted the Wolverines at No. 8, one spot ahead of Tennessee.

Last season, Michigan surprised the field with a run to the Final Four, when former Wooden Award winner Trey Burke guided it through a series of postseason battles. The Wolverines are a different team without him, but this version still toyed with their first two opponents, Wofford and Texas. They shot 21-for-45 from the 3-point line in those games. They defended well, too. Wofford scored 0.71 points per possession in the round-of-64 matchup, per Ken Pomeroy, and the Wolverines held Texas to a 37 percent clip from the field. This is a dangerous team.

Medcalf’s counterpart at ESPN, Andy Katz, likes the Vols to upset the Wolverines.

Which remaining team is the most dangerous? Maybe not the best, but the most dangerous?

Tennessee. The Vols, albeit against UMass and Mercer, have looked pretty strong inside and have made the necessary shots to pull away from teams. They have more than enough to beat Michigan and if they do, they match up well against Kentucky or Louisville. It’s not crazy to think the Vols could go from the First Four to the Final Four.

Seth Davis writes that Michigan was the most impressive team in the first weekend.

If you take the two games together, then the most impressive team last week was Michigan, which beat Wofford and Texas by a combined 31 points. Needless to say, the Wolverines’ guards performed well, but the guy who needs more love on this team is senior forward Jordan Morgan. He had two double-doubles, including a workmanlike 15-point, 10-rebound performance against the Longhorns’ big front line. He is the biggest reason why the Wolverines did not unravel after they lost sophomore forward Mitch McGary to a back injury.

CBS calls Michigan’s first-weekend ‘somewhat unspectacular’.

The defending champs and last year’s runner-up fell below the fold with their wins over the weekend, but there is no reason to doubt each team’s potential to return to the Final Four. Something about the loss to Michigan State in Big Ten title game seemed to shake the public’s confidence in the Wolverines, but those in John Beilein’s locker room shook it off quickly and showed Final Four form in a 79-65 win over Texas that was never in doubt. Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton combined for 15 of Michigan’s 21 3-pointers over the weekend, a good sign for Big Blue.

Sports on Earth’s Matt Brown on Michigan:

Michigan has quietly taken care of business thus far, beating 15-seed Wofford by the sleep-inducing score of 57-40, then taking care of Texas 79-65. Both featured double-digit halftime leads, meaning the Wolverines have not really been given much attention so far, especially in a region featuring popular bracket pick Louisville, Duke losing to Mercer and the Wichita State-Kentucky classic. But Michigan should hardly be taken lightly, even if it’s still playing without big man Mitch McGary, who continues to rehab his injured back. Senior Jordan Morgan has filled in admirably underneath, registering double-doubles in both tournament games, while sharpshooter Nik Stauskas and forward Glen Robinson III give the Wolverines a pair of stars, and even if they’ve been lurking in the background as a No. 2 seed, you can bet John Beilein will have them prepared. But even with Duke out in the bottom half of the Midwest, it turns out Michigan should be just as concerned with Tennessee.

KenPom weights in with his updated log5 odds for the Sweet 16.


Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is that Tennessee would have been 11th on the list before last weeks’ games.

Tennessee would have ranked 11th on this list at the beginning of the tournament and they’ve moved up to fifth, thanks to getting rid of an extra game, piling it on Iowa in OT, and beating UMass easily.

Nate Silver updates his odds, which bump Michigan up just a bit.

  • Chris

    Last year everyone had VCU and Florida beating us also, so what’s new here? Michigan continues to get no love.

    • Brandon

      Annoying, but I’m fine with it. We seem to play better when no one takes us seriously.

      • Indiana_Matt

        Agreed. Easier to be motivated when it seems you aren’t being taken seriously and have something to prove.

        • MAZS

          Really ? We need additional motivation? We’re in the Sweet 16–that should be (and I suspect is) motivation enough. It’s kinda like giving 110%–when 100% is the best anyone can do.

          • Indiana_Matt

            I see what you mean. But, for instance, in the 1992 Finals Michael Jordan apparently took it as a slight that there was a conversation about who was the better two guard, he or Clyde Drexler. Now I suppose you could say, “Mike, you are in the NBA Finals… that should be motivation enough.” But he used that perceived slight as extra motivation to destroy Drexler’s Blazers. I am just pointing out that when someone “disses” you (even if it is only imagined) it can amp up that focus even one notch higher.

          • MAZS

            I get the diss—I just don’t buy that MJ wouldn’t have played just as hard without it.

          • Indiana_Matt

            I agree he would have played very hard. But if you read about MJ, he blew stuff out of proportion like that all the time to give him an extra edge. The perception of someone doubting or disrespecting you seems to have a blood-in-the-water effect for many competitors. There is no room to over-think the game or lose confidence when you are filled with animosity.

            Anyway. Just my perception. I hope they run them off the floor no matter what it takes!

          • Brad

            The truth is that ‘giving 100%’ isn’t physically possible all the time and that all athletes lose focus or peak effort during a game. Yes, the Sweet 16 is a big game, but how many big games/big moments has this team had in the last month?

  • kam

    Should be a tough game! It would really help if nik crashed the boards too. I always watch and he normally watches. He doesn’t seem to like to get physical under the hoop.

    • ShamrockCat

      Sometimes his assignment is to stay back to cover the defensive end. If Walton is down low, someone’s got to stay up top to prevent breakaways, and Walton usually has a decent number of boards for a PG.

  • ChathaM

    Analysts singing the praises of Tennessee seem to have forgotten that only one week ago, they needed overtime to get past a struggling Iowa team in the first round. Don’t get me wrong; they aren’t a weak team, and they could beat us on a given night. But, does anyone honestly believe that they have any chance of guarding us effectively? I think that we’re a matchup nightmare for Tennessee.

    I can’t believe the CBS writer referred to Michigan as “Big Blue”. That’s horrible.

    • fresh

      whats horrible about all this talk is that the 2nd half of the big ten season Iowa was by far the worst big ten team in the league…..playing horrible basketball, mercer obviously got lucky against duke and then got dealt with expectedly against tenn………….so essentially tenn beat 2 crappy teams and will now play a very good team…….they could win but these analysts are dumb and dont take things into consideration very well. Why would anybody think cuonzo martin is going to outcoach beilein. Michigan has better talent, better coaching, and the experience. pretty easy choice in my mind.

  • mistersuits

    Michigan’s the only 2-seed that played like a 2-seed in the opening rounds, they are the highest remaining seed in the Midwest and yet you’d think they’re not even playing next weekend the way all the other teams are getting hyped.

    • cr

      And the coaches probably love it. Couldn’t be a better situation…..under / off the radar and just focusing on getting work done in practice.

    • jakelam2116

      Yep. Agree. And yep, coaches love it.

  • jakelam2116

    Once the season is over regardless of how it turns out, I’d love to see a post — taking into account maybe the past four years (or so) and where teams stand now — ranking the CURRENT top programs in all of college basketball. If just based on wins, conference championships, etc., I bet A LOT of people nationally would be in for a shock when they see how high Michigan — isn’t that a football school??? — is ranked.

    No, folks, Michigan’s best revenue sport these days is basketball.

    • aaron

      Best revenue is by far in football….

      • p

        What he means is that the best sport that brings in revenue is basketball. We all know football brings in more money, but the product on the field isn’t as good as the basketball program