The Michigan Wolverines are in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season and find themselves in possibly their toughest match-up of the tournament so far as they take on the 11-seeded Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee is similar to Texas in that they are a team predicated in their bigs and what they can create down low. Michigan will have their hands full on Friday night, and you can check out our keys to victory after the jump.
Michigan’s Skills vs. Tennessee’s Brawn
In watching many of the Vol’s game this season, it is pretty apparent that they can beat you down inside and are very good at rebounding at both ends of the floor. Michigan is one of the more skilled teams left in the field with their ball movement and pure shooting abilities.
Jordan Morgan will help to offset what Tennessee has in Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, but the X-factor in this match-up will be Glenn Robinson III. Robinson doesn’t posses the strength down low that these guys have, but he will have to continue to get to the rim and the foul line for the Wolverines in this game. Also, he has to convert on his opportunities from the perimeter.
When Michigan’s offense is firing on all cylinders, the ball movement around the perimeter is crisp and creates open opportunities throughout the offensive side of the floor. A quick start would be ideal for them to tire out the Vols, much like they did early on against Texas.
Protect the Basketball
This has been a strength for the Wolverines all season, as they turn the ball over almost less than anyone else in college basketball. Michigan really has an advantage over the Vols in this regard because Tennessee is not a team that forces turnovers very well.
As the Wolverines advance, the stage gets bigger. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton must play a smart game on Friday night and protect the ball as the quarterback of the offense. Limit the turnovers, and Michigan will be in good shape.
Jordan Morgan Needs to Stay Out of Foul Trouble
The biggest reason that Michigan is still in good shape is because of Jordan Morgan’s presence in the post. Maymon and Stokes will be a load down there, and the Wolverines will need Morgan on the floor playing well as much as ever. The gap is pretty wide right now in terms of level of play between Morgan and Jon Horford, who seems to have lost himself a bit lately. If Morgan is in the mode he was through the first two games of the tournament, Michigan will be better for it. He is incredibly vital tonight.
Prediction: It really does feel like Michigan is going into this game as an underdog, doesn’t it? Throwing seeds aside, KenPom actually has the Vols ranked higher than the Wolverines and predicts a loss for the boys in Ann Arbor.
I can’t see that happening tonight. Michigan will have it’s hands full, for sure, but I predict a 71-62 victory for the Wolverines this evening. Glenn Robinson III leads the way with Nik Stauskas not far behind.