There are not many teams playing better basketball than what Michigan has accomplished in the last month and change, and there’s even less playing more inspired than the Wolverines.
Despite the travel troubles, coach John Beilein and his bunch soared over their opposition in the Big Ten Tournament. Strangely though, it earned them only a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament. No matter, even more bulletin board material for Michigan.
Their reward for winning the conference tournament? A date with the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. The Pokes are among the hotter teams as well. At one point they were 10-8 on the year, losers in their first six league games. They managed to quickly turn things around, winning 10 of their next 14 and solidify an at-large. All four of the losses came to Kansas, Baylor and two to Iowa State, all by single-digits.
What is Michigan going to have to do if they want to advance through to the Round of 32? Here are some keys to look for:
1. HIGH SCORING AFFAIR: Expect a shootout Friday afternoon in Indianapolis between Michigan and Oklahoma State. These are two of the most efficient offenses in the country, according to TeamRankings. Michigan ranks 7th averaging 1.143 points per possession; the Cowboys are right behind them at 1.141 in the same department.
It very well could be the first one to 80 wins.
2. BATTLE OF THE GUARDS: Come Tournament time, sometimes all a team needs to make a deep run is premier play at the point guard position. Both of these teams have that and some.
Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. (15.2 PPG) and OSU’s Jawun Evans (19 PPG) lead their respective teams in scoring, and both have playing out of their minds late in the season. Walton since 01/26 is averaging close to 19 per contest, along with better than 6.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in that stretch. Evans meanwhile over his last 13 games is north of 20 PPG and adding in 7.5 helpers per game.
Will it be the senior Walton or the rising sophomore Evans?
3. SIZE MATTERS: Shooting is the M.O. for both of these teams, there’s no faking that one. But John Beilein may have the advantage here over first-year Cowboys head coach Brad Underwood.
Oklahoma State’s two tallest regular players, senior Leyton Hammonds (6-foot-8) and junior Mitchell Solomon (6-foot-7) don’t log nearly the playing time or production that Beilein gets from Moritz Wagner (6-foot-11) and D.J. Wilson (6-foot-10)
- OKLA ST
- Hammonds: 22.4 MPG, 8 PPG, 4.8 RPG
- Solomon: 19.7 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG
- Wagner: 24 MPG, 12 PPG, 4.2 RPG
- Wilson: 30.1 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG
That added length and production may not only give Michigan an added route to pursue on the offensive side of the ball, but also possibly force Oklahoma State to think about where to get their offense from.
OTHER IMPORTANT STATS TO KNOW:
- Oklahoma State is just one of 13 teams in the country shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range this season.
- Michigan not only leads the country in fewest turnovers, but they rank 11th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio.
DSN STAFF PREDICTIONS:
- DANIEL DYLAN BAIR – Okla State 83, Michigan 78
- JOSEPH BERNHARDT – Michigan 75, Okla State 70
- KY CARLIN – Michigan 89, Okla State 76
- JEFF DEACON – Okla State 70, Michigan 65
- DON DRYSDALE – Michigan 77, Okla State 74
- ALEXANDER MULLER – Okla State 84, Michigan 80
- A.J. REILLY – Michigan 83, Okla State 77
- PAUL ROCHON – Michigan 84, Okla State 73
- ERIC VINCENT – Michigan 81, Okla State 65
- MICHAEL WHITAKER – Michigan 79, Okla State 75