Michigan was overrated when they went down in Columbus for their first loss of the year.
Michigan was done after their a 6-6 finish to conference play, including a debacle of a loss to a hapless Penn State team.
When they did get into the NCAA Tournament, Nate Wolters and South Dakota State were the hot pick to upset the Wolverines in the first round, VCU’s Havoc full court press was going to expose Michigan, Kansas was too big and too good, and Florida’s defense was going to smother them.
Check, check, check, check, check, and check.
So when the time came to match-up against the Syracuse Orange and their 2-3 zone defense in the Final Four last night, it was yet another obstacle that Michigan wouldn’t get past, according to “experts.”
The Wolverines took down the Orange 61-56 in the National Semifinal to earn themselves a spot in tomorrow night’s Championship game against Louisville. It was definitely a Jekyl and Hyde performance, but the end result is all that mattered.
In the first half, Michigan was executing their gameplan almost perfectly. They were hitting timely shots and handling the zone defense that Syracuse threw at them, leading by 11 at the break.
The second half was a much different story. The shot selection left a ton to be desired and Syracuse got hot and cut Michigan’s lead down to two in the waning moments of the game.
And at that point, deja vu set in. Down the stretch, Michigan missed far too many free throws, keeping the game closer than it should have been, but they hit the ones that mattered in the closing seconds and got a huge defensive stop that led to a transition bucket to seal the victory and send the Wolverines to their first National Title game since 1993.
Mitch McGary again was the spark that the Wolverines rode to take it to the next level and pull out a victory, something that he’s done this whole tournament in his own little coming out party. He had 10 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.
When you make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, you have to survive and advance, and Michigan did just that. It wasn’t a great effort from the starting five outside of McGary, but the bench stepped up and was key in securing the win. Caris LeVert had eight points and Spike Albrecht contributed with six in only four minutes of play.
Syracuse’s point guard Michael Carter-Williams gave Trey Burke fits all night. Burke had one of his least impressive performances of the year, but still was efficient enough to lead the Wolverines to one of the biggest wins in program history, certainly the biggest of this regime.
Give credit to John Beilein and his staff. They have done a fantastic job keeping this team positive and guiding them as far as they have. Regardless of game results from the middle of the season, I have felt all along this is the most talented team in the country and were primed to make a deep run.
One more game. 40 minutes. That’s what is left of this season. After all of the critics and analysts have said this team will go nowhere, they’ve proved them wrong at every turn. Michigan enters tomorrow against the Louisville Cardinals as a four point underdog, and I think the Wolverines would have it no other way.
Look for a detailed preview of the last game of the year later tonight or possibly tomorrow morning.
The game tips off from Atlanta tomorrow evening around 9:21pm on CBS.