The University of Michigan Wolverines are entering the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the second consecutive year.
After finishing the season with a 24-9 (13-5 in the Big Ten) and a share of the Big Ten regular season title, the Wolverines are confident going into the tournament.
Michigan has had strong performances from seniors Zach Novak and Stu Douglass throughout the year. Douglass originally came off the bench, but five games into the season, he proved himself to coach fifth year John Beilein and became a starter. Douglass and Novak were consistently reliable for making clutch baskets, particularly from behind the arc.
While Douglass and Novak were veteran leaders for the Wolverines, the true stars of the team were freshman, Trey Burke and Sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. Burke, who led the Wolverines with 14.8 points and 14.6 assists per game, was named co-freshman of the year for the Big Ten along with Cody Zeller of Indiana University. Hardaway Jr. was named to the All Big Ten third team while Burke as voted to the All Big Ten Second team.
Michigan starts the tournament against Ohio University on Friday, March 16th at 7:20 pm eastern. Ohio University 27-7 (11-5 in the Mid Atlantic Conference) is lead by guards D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Cooper led the Bobcats with 14.6 points and 5.7 assists.
The matchup of Cooper and Burke is a highly anticipated one, as a majority of experts expect Cooper to be the key to victory for Ohio University. With Burke taking over as the on court leader for Michigan, the two are expected to go back and fourth throughout the game.
Assuming the Wolverines can make it past the Bobcats they will face either the Southern Florida Bulls or the Temple Owls. The Owls have garnered a lot of attention throughout the year with an impressive 24-7 record (13-3 in the Atlantic Ten conference). The Owl’s record included a very unexpected and equally impressive win over the Duke Blue Devils.
The USF Bulls had an unassuming overall record of 21-13, however, they did manage a 12-6 record in the Big East – a conference that many experts think rivals the Big Ten as the top conference in the country. Their Big East record included wins over Big East tournament runners up, Cincinnati and Big East tournament champs, No. 18 Louisville.
Michigan is coming off of a tough loss against rivals Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals. After beating Minnesota in the second round of the Big Ten tournament in overtime, the Wolverines were humbled by Ohio State 77-55.
After their tough loss to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines will look to disprove their critics with a deep run in the NCAA tournament.