Michigan Wolverines: 2013 NCAA tournament

Final Four by the pictures

April, 7, 2013
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Michigan's victory over Syracuse in the Final Four was an indescribable moment for Michigan fans everywhere. A few fans shared their photos with us through Twitter to give us a look at the game through their eyes.

Everything is better with cake:

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WN Mailbag: Final Four edition 

April, 3, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Wolverines have reached the Final Four for the first time since 1993. That means the last time Michigan stepped on a Final Four floor, not only had America just sworn in its first female attorney general, but Tag Team and Boy George were both dominating American air waves.

We’ll call it a draw for humanity.

So in the spirit of the basketball frenzy that has taken over, I’ll answer your roundball questions this week as the Wolverine fans prepare for what is an historic day. Mike will take care of the mailbag next week, so send your questions on to him at @MikeRothstein or michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com. Now, let’s talk some basketball ...
Zak IrvinKelly KlineZak Irvin says he and fellow commit Derrick Walton have been texting like crazy during U-M's run.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin will be teammates next season. This past weekend, that bond grew a little more.

As their future school, Michigan, upset Kansas in the Sweet 16, decimated Florida in the Elite Eight and made its first Final Four since before the recruits were born, they texted each other all weekend.

“We were really excited,” Irvin said. “Especially with Kansas, down with a minute to go, we were going crazy.”

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michigan is headed to the Final Four for the first time in nearly 20 years following Sunday's 79-59 annihilation of Florida in the Elite Eight at Cowboys Stadium.

Freshman Nik Stauskas scored 19 of his game-high 22 points in the first half to spark the Wolverines, the No. 4 seed in the South Region. Trey Burke added 15 points and seven assists. Will Yeguete and Kenny Boynton led Florida with 13 points each.

Michigan hardly looked fatigued from Friday's 87-85 overtime win against No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16. John Beilein's squad rallied from a 14-point deficit to win that game, but it certainly didn't need any second-half heroics to get by the Gators.

The Wolverines led by as many as 24 points before taking a 47-30 lead into intermission. Stauskas made all six of his field goal attempts in the opening stanza. Five of them were from 3-point range. It'd be inaccurate to say that Michigan caught Florida on an off night or that it built its big lead mainly because its opponent played poorly.

The Gators were simply out-classed in terms of talent.

By losing, No. 3 seed Florida became the first team in NCAA tournament history to fall in the Elite Eight three consecutive seasons. Michigan, meanwhile, advances to play Syracuse in the national semifinals Saturday in Atlanta.

Turning point: Florida, which trailed by scores of 23-5 and 41-17 in the opening half, put a bit of a scare into Michigan after intermission. A jump shot by Boynton shaved the Wolverines' lead to 50-38, but Michigan was quick to respond with a layup from Mitch McGary. Seconds after McGary's basket, Spike Albrecht stole Florida's inbounds pass and scored on a hanging layup to make it 54-38. It was never a game after that.

Key player: Stauskas was the main reason Michigan was able to separate itself from Florida in the first half. But freshman forward McGary was the player who set the tone early by scoring eight of his team's first 11 points in game-opening 11-0 run. McGary finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Burke had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.

Key stat: Michigan went 10-of-19 from 3-point range.

Michigan advances to Final Four 

March, 31, 2013
3/31/13
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Video: Seth Greenberg on Michigan's win

March, 31, 2013
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Seth Greenberg breaks down Michigan's 79-59 win against Florida in the Elite Eight.

Breaking down Michigan's Sweet 16 win

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
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Jay Bilas and Seth Greenberg look at Michigan's come-from-behind win over Kansas.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Visions of Mitch McGary’s past came bubbling up Saturday afternoon as he stood waiting to set a screen for his point guard, Trey Burke.

The Michigan freshman forward stood firmly, and Briante Weber had no chance. He ran right into the Wall of McGary and crumpled to the ground for a little while, unable to get up.

The hit, crushing Weber and part of VCU’s spirit in Michigan’s 78-53 win in the round of 32, harked back to a former life for McGary -- and another sport, football. A 6-foot-6, 190-pound tight end as a freshman at Chesterton High School in northwest Indiana, McGary loved playing football. Until he kept growing.

“My dad made me quit,” McGary said. “I was getting too tall.”

[+] EnlargeMitch McGary
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMitch McGary's fierce play in the paint on Saturday helped deliver Michigan to the Sweet 16.
Michigan and coach John Beilein should be happy about that. McGary focused on basketball and a continual growth to the 6-10, 255-pound body of enthusiasm he now inhabits.

Devastating hits, such as what he did to Weber, are merely an energy point for Michigan. McGary is the Wolverines' bruiser and interior presence, something they have been waiting for in Beilein’s first five years in Ann Arbor.

McGary almost shrugged discussing the hit, with a sly smile yet insisting it was unintentional. That is part of what makes McGary a question mark for how good this Michigan team could be in the final two weeks of the season.

“Mitch, his confidence was incredible today, easy drop-offs and offensive boards that he got and he just kept going,” said Michigan redshirt freshman forward Max Bielfeldt. “He can go on a run, and he’s just very talented. When he gets his game going, he’s really, really tough to stop.

“He’s a guy, when he gets going, he’s going to keep going, and his enthusiasm keeps his game at a high level.”

This enthusiasm has been something Michigan has missed a lot of the season. Burke is a savvy, cool player who rarely displays emotion. Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. feeds off emotion, but it comes in spurts.

McGary is like a loose pinball, bouncing all over the place, lighting up bonuses and giving everyone around him added bursts of energy.

Especially if he plays the way he did Saturday, with career highs of 21 points and 14 rebounds against the Rams on 10-of-11 shooting. Michigan reinserted McGary into the starting lineup in the round of 64 against South Dakota State, and he had 13 points and nine boards.

Saturday was something different, though. It was what Michigan had hoped for all along. Although the Wolverines have multiple contributors playing well, McGary is the one who turns them into a title contender.

“He now brings another element to the table,” Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander said. “Sometimes we joke about them guys being the Justice League.

“If Trey Burke is Batman and Tim is Robin, I’ll tell you what: Mitch McGary might be Hercules.”

 
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Quick thoughts from fourth-seeded Michigan’s 78-53 win over No. 5 seed VCU on Saturday from the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Overview: Havoc? The only havoc caused in this game Saturday was from Michigan.

The Wolverines took VCU’s vaunted "Havoc" press apart with a combination of their own defense -- the Rams press off of made shots and dead-ball situations -- and their ability to break the press. Michigan handled VCU’s press with the ease of an elite college team and handed Rams coach Shaka Smart the most lopsided loss of his career.

The Wolverines used their press break, which was fast but patient, to lead to easy transition on the other end and layup after layup along with open 3-pointers. It was a tape teams likely will use for a long time in trying to figure out how to dissect VCU.

Michigan did this with its star point guard, Trey Burke, having another off day. Although his scoring returned, Burke had a season-high seven turnovers, but he did find Michigan’s shooters and cutters well for seven assists.

Turning point: There were many, but the stretch Michigan had to open the second half -- in which the Wolverines had three turnovers and a missed shot yet maintained their double-digit lead -- all but signified a poor day for VCU and an eventual run-out for Michigan. It escalated further when VCU guard Darius Theus picked up his third foul at the 17:23 mark in the second half.

Key player: Michigan forward Mitch McGary had the best game of his career, providing the interior presence the Wolverines often had lacked this season. McGary played like the guy they anticipated he might be coming out of high school and prep school. He went 10-of-11 from the field with career highs of 21 points and 14 rebounds, taking advantage of a lacking Rams interior.

Key stat: Before Michigan’s walk-ons came in, the Wolverines committed 12 turnovers, exactly the average teams that beat VCU this season had reached. The Wolverines handled the press easily and, save for one stretch early in the second half, never appeared rattled.

Next: Michigan makes its first Sweet 16 trip since 1994, facing No. 1 seed Kansas or No. 8 seed North Carolina in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.

 
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- VCU has spent much of this season flustering opposing point guards, sending them into various states of disarray and their "Havoc" defense wreaked, well, havoc on the plans of opponents all season long.

The Rams, though, have not seen an offense quite like the one they will Saturday in the round of 32. VCU turns everyone over. Michigan, with its sophomore point guard Trey Burke, hardly ever gives up the ball.

Something has to give.

“It’s a difference of style,” VCU sophomore guard Briante Weber said. “If they take care of the ball, they win. If we get them to turn over, then we win.”

It may come off as that simple, but trying to beat Havoc is anything but.

[+] EnlargeAkron vs. VCU
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesVCU's "Havoc" defense forced Akron into 21 turnovers during the Rams' first-round rout.
Michigan spent Friday morning looking at variations of VCU’s Havoc, then walked through the varying press breaks it would try to use to stop it.

It is not something the Wolverines can simulate. Other teams have tried and failed.

“We really haven’t seen pressure like that in my years of being here,” said Memphis junior guard Chris Crawford, whose Tigers lost to VCU 78-65 in November. “We had to adjust to it, but it was like they were everywhere.”

That is part of the plan. VCU spends its entire preseason working on conditioning and defense in an effort to run Havoc at almost all times, forcing opponents to flail about and start to see passing lanes that aren’t really there.

It happened for Memphis, which turned the ball over 22 times in that loss. That number is what the Rams have averaged in their 27 wins this season. They have blitzed opponents left and right with a press that can have a multitude of variations, depending on the opponent.

“We just try to deny the wings,” VCU guard Darius Theus said. “Team stops, actually. Just build a wall around the basket.”

The wall, at times, can seem impenetrable. It took Memphis a half to figure out exactly how to move the ball up the floor against VCU. And trying to do it with one primary point guard alone won’t work, either.

“What’s crazy is it’s one thing to try and prepare for it,” Memphis assistant Damon Stoudamire said. “When we actually seen it, it started our guys on the initial. If we played them now, we’d be prepared.

“When you see stuff like that, the way it came, it’s like a barrage, boom, boom, boom, boom. And they made shots. They turning you over and then they score, that’s a bad recipe right there.”

The key is to not try and go up the sides of the floor. Doing that will be the high-risk, high-reward maneuver for Michigan. If it beats VCU up the side, it’ll have a fast break. If it doesn’t -- it’ll be a likely turnover.

And it needs to get more than just Burke involved, using guards Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and maybe even backup point guard Spike Albrecht as options.

“Our guys have to stay connected,” Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan said. “They are all connected defensively with their rotations and their traps. We have to be connected offensively.”

Someone will get disjointed Saturday. Whichever team doesn’t likely will end up winning.

News and Notes

  • Memphis and Michigan State know each other well even as nonconference opponents. Tigers point guard Joe Jackson and Spartans guard Keith Applingplayed together on the USA Basketball Under-19 team this summer. “I’m real cool with Keith Appling,” Jackson said. “We played together in the USA games overseas. I kind of know what he can do good and what he can do bad."He isn’t the only one to know a Michigan State player. Memphis’ Adonis Thomas and Michigan State’s Branden Dawson were teammates on the West team in the 2011 McDonald’s All American game, and Dawson said they have stayed in touch. “He’s a great guy,” Dawson said. “A great player. The thing that really shocked me is that he’s 6-7, 240 now. When we were at the McDonald’s, he didn’t weigh that much.” There’s also a decent chance Appling will be matched up with Jackson and Thomas with Dawson on Saturday.
  • Appling tweaked the patellar tendon in his left knee Thursday against Valparaiso. A day later, he said it is still bothering him “a little bit off and on,” but that he anticipated playing tomorrow.
  • Burke said his back is “a little sore” from falling yesterday but definitely would play Saturday. Michigan guard Matt Vogrich, who missed Thursday’s game with strep throat, was back with the team Friday.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Michigan's coaches emphasized something like this all season long, and occasionally they would see it.

A glimpse in practice here. A stretch during a game there. During portions of scrimmages in which they sat point guard Trey Burke to give him rest. But for the past two months, Michigan had not seen something like this in a game.

Michigan played with the offensive flow and precision it was fully capable of Thursday night in a 71-56 victory over South Dakota State in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, but something was very, very different.

For the first time this season, Burke was in the single digits, a non-scoring factor with six points. A team that had appeared so reliant on its Wooden Award-candidate guard suddenly needed to find someone else to score for it.

“A lot of people say that this is a one-man offense,” Burke said. “But I practice with these guys every single day and I know what they can do. They showed it tonight.”

[+] EnlargeGlenn Robinson III
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMichigan's Glenn Robinson III hit three 3-pointers -- his first game with more than one in two months -- on his way to 21 points.
Freshman forward Glenn Robinson III, who had not hit more than one 3-pointer in a game since Jan. 24, made three and scored 21 points on nine shots against the No. 13-seeded Jackrabbits (25-10). Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. hit five 3-pointers and scored 21 points. Freshman Mitch McGary, in the starting lineup in place of Jordan Morgan, had 13 points and nine rebounds.

And all of a sudden, fourth-seeded Michigan looked more like the top-ranked team it had been at one point this season instead of one that struggled over the past month.

“It’s nice for everybody to get to see that we don’t have to rely on Trey night in, night out to score baskets for us to win,” redshirt sophomore forward Jon Horford said. “We do need his defense, which is excellent, and we need his passing and all that stuff he does so well.

“But it’s nice that we got to see we don’t need him to score 20 points a game to be successful.”

For a little while, it became a concern for Michigan. The Wolverines (27-7) knew they had talent, but too often Burke came in to bail them out when they needed it. He would make a big play on defense or score points in a quick spurt when the offense started to stagnate.

Even Michigan coach John Beilein, when he saw Burke had gone 0-for-7 in the first half, said he figured he’d go 7-for-7 in the second. But for the first time this season, he didn’t.

“We need Trey to take a lot of shots and we need Trey to carry the offensive load for us, but yeah, sometimes we do rely on him a little bit too much,” freshman guard Nik Stauskas said. “Everyone kind of stands around and watches him play.

“Today, everyone got in the flow of the offense and not forcing it. And it was great.”

Around Michigan, it was indeed great for everyone involved. Burke still had seven assists and helped defend South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters along with Hardaway and Robinson, holding him to 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

But offensively, Michigan might have found itself at its most crucial time.

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