The Michigan Wolverines have won two games in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, taking down both the Wofford Terriers and Texas Longhorns rather convincingly.
We saw it last year against VCU when Michigan wasn’t supposed to be able to handle coach Shaka Smart‘s vaunted “Havoc” press, and not only did they handle it, but they beat the Rams at their own game and won the game going away.
Yesterday, Texas was supposed to be able to abuse Michigan inside with their young big men Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes, and all the Wolverines did was roar out to a 13-point halftime lead.
Texas made their run in the second half, cutting the deficit down to six at one point, but Michigan never panicked and outscored the Longhorns 21-13 to end the game and win by a score of 79-65.
Michigan finds itself in its second straight Sweet Sixteen berth after a year that many had pegged as a rebuilding season. One of the extended story arcs of this year has been, “But can they do it without Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Mitch McGary?”
This group has raised expectations and proved this last season was not a fluke. The “one year wonder” narrative has been put to rest, but there is still work to be done.
Even with two double-digit victories to open the tournament, this is a team that has yet to play its best basketball. Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Caris LeVert have played well, but will need to step up a bit going forward. Against Texas, the Wolverine trio shot only 14-of-34 from the floor.
Michigan hasn’t shot very well in the second half of their first two tournament games, but they have hit big shots when it’s mattered. This group doesn’t panic when things aren’t going their way, sometimes to a fault, but they now will have four days off to prepare for Tennessee, who is actually ranked higher than Michigan, according to KenPom.
The Wolverines should be able to beat the Volunteers, setting them up for a possible Elite Eight match-up with either Louisville or Kentucky
Michigan has its work cut out for them going forward, but fans should be encouraged by the fact that they haven’t played their best 40 minutes of basketball to this point, yet find themselves advancing in this tournament.
The next week or so should be very interesting.