Michigan Team Notes
Talent abounds in Ann Arbor and if guard play does really win championships, then this year’s Wolverines should be a favorite to make it to the Final Four. Not only do they possess the nation’s most electric point guard in Trey Burke, but there is genetics on the side of this team. NBA offspring, Tim Hardaway Jr and Glenn Robinson III are major contributors. Throw in contributions for freshmen, Mitch McGary and Nick Stauskas and you have a team capable of beating anyone. Michigan does get the hometown draw in Detroit, but I am not a fan of their opposition. South Dakota State will be a tough match-up as will be VCU in the 2nd round.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Best point guard in the Big Ten and possibly, the nation, Burke is a sight to behold. He is the point guard every coach in the nation would love to have with a combination of scoring, play-making and stellar defense at the point of attack. Perfect example of this was his play in the waning moments during a home game against their rivals from Michigan State. After scoring a bucket to bring the team to within one, Burke picked Keith Appling’s pocket and went the length of the court for the game-winning lay-up. One of my favorite players in the nation to watch, period.
KEY WINS: The Wolverines won their first 16 games this season, which included neutral-site wins over tournament teams from Pittsburgh and Kansas State. They followed an impressive start with road wins over Minnesota and Illinois.
Louisville Team Notes
This year’s edition of the Cardinals was a national favorite to start the season. Then they lost a couple games, fell back to earth, but now find themselves back in a similar position. They are playing great basketball since February and have one of the nation’s best backcourts with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Rick Pitino’s teams will always play an aggressive and athletic brand of full-court basketball which makes them a tough match-up for any team with just a couple days to prepare. One of my biggest concerns with them is getting out of the first weekend. They have been prone to being upset. But they get past those first games and they just might make it all the way until the last one. I like the top half of their draw but Elite 8 games against either Duke or Michigan State is a tall order.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The two guards get a lot of the attention, but sophomore forward Chane Behanan is the “nuts and bolts” of this team. The 6-8 250-pound big man is quite nimble and athletic for a guy his size, which presents major match-up issues. When the dirty work needs to be done, expect Behanan to not be too far from the action.
KEY WINS: Some solid neutral site wins over Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky and Missouri, while dropping a five-point loss to Duke in the Bahamas. They have struggled a bit away from Freedom Hall (ummmm, I mean, the Yum Center?) but do have road wins at Charleston, Memphis and recently over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.