Michigan and Tulsa look to advance in March Madness

 Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

These play-in games are NOT part of the NCAA Tournament… I dont care what the NCAA does to promote this as the first round of March Madness, the games played in Dayton OH are nothing more than the equivalent to a local act opening a concert for a big headliner.

That being said both the Michigan Wolverines and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane have a lot to prove in this warm-up after both teams had its share of struggles to end the season.

The Wolverines earned their way into the field of 68 with a heroic last second shot in its quarterfinal win over the Indiana Hoosiers from an unlikely source in sophomore wing Kameron Chatman. To say Chatman was the last option of the Michigan players on the court in the waning seconds would be putting it nicely, but head coach John Beilein saw enough in him, despite his paltry 2.9 ppg scoring average, to have him in the game with Michigan’s season hanging in the balance.

You could tell that Chatman wasnt expecting to get the pass as he seemed to have blended in with the Michigan bench as he stood on the baseline presumably hoping that anyone buy him would get that last shot. Even after he got the pass from point guard Derrick Walton, who benefitted from a key screen from center Mark Donnel, Chatman fumbled the pass which allowed Indiana guard Nick Zeisloft to come within inches of blocking the shot.

Chatman’s hesitation is indicative of the entire Wolverines stop-and-go season as it seemed that the program could never get things going for long stretches during the year.

Unlike Michigan, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane come into March Madness having won its six of its last 10 games — the problem is two of those losses came against lowly Memphis, including a loss in the first round of the AAC tournament. Despite a 14 point 7 rebound performance from senior forward Brandon Swannegan, the 22 point loss revealed that the success of failure of the team will depend on how well its guards play. Against Memphis Pat Birt, Shaquille Harrison, and James Woodard combined for 32 points but only made 9-of-30 shots as a trio. Even with the lackluster shooting what was more concerning was the eight turnovers and only seven assists on the afternoon.

Despite the losses the committee chose to put more value in the Top 50 RPI victories over Wichita St., Connecticut, SMU, and Cincinnati to put them in the play-in game.

Tulsa and Michigan shared a common opponent in the SMU Mustangs on the season with the Wolverines losing by 24 in Dallas and Tulsa pulling off the 82-77 upset in Moody Coliseum handing the Mustangs their only home loss on the year.

As it did most of the season, Michigan struggled with the stopping interior post play of its opponent as the SMU frontcourt of Markus Kennedy, Jordan Tolbert and Ben Moore dominated the Michigan bigs. Fortunately for Wolverines fans, despite having some size up front, Tulsa operates the best when its guards are leading the way and getting to the hole — which Michigan struggles defending.

In handing the Mustangs their first loss, Tulsa did it by scoring 19 points off of 14 SMU turnovers but against the Wolverines it may be hard replicating that as Michigan is ranked seventh in the nation only turning the ball over 9.8 times a game. In addition to finding ways to

In addition to finding ways to force turnovers, Tulsa has to do a better job defending the three-point line. Even in the victory over SMU they allowed the Mustangs to make 49% of its 23 attempts from beyond the arc and for a team like Michigan that relies heavily on the outside shot, if they can get open looks, it could be a long night for the Golden Hurricane.

 

Players to Watch:

Michigan: Derrick Walton Jr. guard – After scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds and handing out five assists in the loss to Purdue in the Big Ten semi-finals, Michigan fans are hoping that the Detroit native is finally out of his scoring slump that saw him not make a single shot in the first two games of the conference tournament. He has to continue to trust his shot and be the distributor that saw him hand out a conference tournament record 12 assists against Indiana.

Tulsa: Pat Birt guard – Much like Walton Jr. Birt’s team tends to operate better when he plays well, In the two Memphis losses Birt shot a combined 4-of-20 from the field and only made two of his 15 three-point attempts. Tulsa has other guards stuffing the stat sheet more but Birt dictates the strength of the Tulsa storm as he provides matchup nightmares because of his inside-out game.

Prediction:

Even though there are some that feel neither team should have made the field of 68 both Michigan and Tulsa prove that the committee were right by rewarding the teams with a berth and give the fans looking forward to the real first round tomorrow a real treat with a competitive close game. The Wolverines get hot from beyond the arc and are led by a good performance from guard Duncan Robinson and Zak Irvin to lead the Wolverines into a Friday matchup against the No.. 6 seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Michigan 68 Tulsa 63

 

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