This game is as closely matched as maybe any we’ve seen in the NCAA Tournament so far, and Kansas vs. Michigan in the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional semifinals (6:37 p.m., TBS) could be one for the ages. Usually you can get a feel among the media types at the tourney on which way the wind is blowing, but nobody has a clue on this one.
Here’s 5 things to look for from Michigan, with plenty of links – and my feature on Michigan guard Trey Burke that ran in today’s Eagle.
1. Guard play is key
Michigan has a great trio of guards in Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas — as good as any KU saw in the Big 12 this year, and there’s some who think Burke might be the best player in the country. The biggest question for KU is going to be who guards Burke, and the answer might be everybody at one time or another. All three average in double digits, and Hardaway Jr. and Stauskas are big enough to be effective taking the ball to the hole and banging for rebounds when they have to.
2. Beilein’s time?
Michigan coach John Beilein might be the best coach in the country who has never been to a Final Four. This is Beilein’s 8th trip to the NCAA Tournament – he’s also been with Canisius (1996), Richmond (1998) and West Virginia (2005, 2006). He made the Elite Eight with West Virginia in 2005 before losing to Louisville in overtime.
3. McGary’s momentum
Power forward Mitch McGary wears the same number as another famous Wolverine who once played his position. The freshman, who was a teammate of Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe at Brewster (N.H.) Academy, has moved into the starting lineup for both NCAA Tournament games and is averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in NCAA play. No, I’m not comparing him to C-Webb. But he’s an up-and-comer – a future All-Big Ten pick in my opinion.
Is depth an issue for Michigan? They haven’t been getting much out of their bench so far in the NCAA Tournament – just 5 points in 55 minutes – but they’ve also cruised to two blowout wins.
Is history on Michigan’s side? The Wolverines haven’t been to the Final Four since the Fab Five made it in 1993* and lost to Duke in the NCAA championship game. It took a long time for Big Blue to get back to this point, and the rigors of a Big Ten Schedule seem to have them acutely prepared for a big game like this.