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Thursday, March 28, 2013
WolverineNation roundtable

By Michael Rothstein & Chantel Jennings & Tom VanHaaren

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With Michigan enduring a big injury to linebacker Jake Ryan and in its first Sweet 16 since 1994, there’s a lot to discuss this week.

Our writers look at the impact of Ryan’s injury, Michigan’s matchup with Kansas and what happens in Atlanta in this week’s WolverineNation roundtable.

1. With Jake Ryan out indefinitely, what does that do to your expectations for Michigan football next season?

Michael Rothstein: Probably costs Michigan a game somewhere, mostly because of his playmaking ability and knack for getting to the ball. This isn’t NCAA Football on XBox 360 where you just plug another guy in. Ryan’s skill set was special and can’t be duplicated. Michigan should still have a good defense, but its biggest playmaker is sidelined.

Jake Ryan
Jake Ryan, Michigan's leading tackler last season, suffered a torn ACL earlier in spring practice.
Chantel Jennings: Well, I think it helps a bit that they'll be moving Brennen Beyer back there to take some snaps, and he has some experience with that position. But to say they'll have the same playmaking ability is completely false. I think this just puts even more pressure on the Wolverines' defensive front. They need to compensate for the fact that there won't be a SAM making huge plays, instead, they'll have to be making big plays from time to time. We'll see if that actually happens.

Tom VanHaaren: Losing Ryan is definitely a big deal and it's unfortunate for him. He is a huge part of the defense and losing him will hurt, but one man doesn't make the team. It changes expectations minutely because Ryan had his position locked down, but I don't think it's going to have a huge impact overall. If his healing process goes well there is a chance he could get back in time for some of the season, so we'll see if or when he comes back.

2. What does Michigan need to do to beat Kansas on Friday night?

Rothstein: Make 3-point shots and defend. It may sound simple, but with Jeff Withey in the middle for Kansas, it changes how the Wolverines should approach things. They need to look more in the mid-range and outside -- something they do already -- and need to be smart when they drive the ball into the lane. As far as defense, Michigan just has to stay on their men and keep Mitch McGary out of foul trouble against Withey in the post.

Jennings: Every player needs to be firing on all cylinders. Offensively, McGary needs to play even better than he did against VCU, because his inside presence is going to be key. Trey Burke is going to need to be even smarter with the ball because Kansas' ability to clog the lane defensively will turn into major turnovers if the Wolverines aren't smart. But even if Burke is smart and McGary is a beast, I'd say Michigan needs to hit at least eight 3-pointers to help spread the floor as much as they can. Defensively, they'll need to have their most focused and intense game of the year. Could all of these gears somehow lock together and produce a win? Sure. I don't think it's too likely, though.

VanHaaren: Keep McGary going. He started against VCU and provided so much early on in that game. If he can keep his momentum going and continue to keep his energy high deep into the tournament, then that's a big positive, since Jordan Morgan has been struggling recently. Michigan needs him on the court to keep its tourney run going.

3. Having seen the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, who do you think cuts down the nets in Atlanta in two weekends?

Rothstein: Chose Ohio State before the tournament started and still feel confident going with the Buckeyes. Aaron Craft has become a reliable offensive weapon, and combine that with DeShaun Thomas and OSU is still a tough out over the next two weeks -- even if the Buckeys barely slid by Iowa State on Sunday.

Jennings: My money is on Louisville still. Indiana's road to the final four just got a bit less treacherous with Miami losing Reggie Johnson. And whether it's a Louisville-IU matchup or a Louisville-Florida matchup (yes, I said Florida out of the south), I would imagine Louisville would come out on top.

VanHaaren: Florida Gulf Coast. Not really, but that would be awesome. I picked Duke in my bracket initially, so I guess I have to stick with that. I feel like this is one of those years where no one is really talking about them, but they're getting deep in the tournament again.