That locks up an NCAA bid no one saw coming, and possibly the title for most over-achieving Michigan team in a long, long time (seriously, does anyone know what the last Michigan team like this was?). Muppets:
Because you can't have one without the other.
I think they were in either way but it would have been harrowing on Selection Sunday; now they've probably played themselves out of Dayton. I have no idea how. Does anyone know how that happened?
I had this post drafted last night. Michigan played poorly in the middle third of the game, and I deleted it. Michigan wins. CAUSALITY!
...and you can't have one without the... whaaaaa?
|WHAT||Michigan v. Illinois|
|WHEN||2:30PM EST (appx)|
KenPom: 33% W
|TELEVISION||ESPN (Dave O'Brien, Dan Dakich)|
This Is The Most Important Game Of The Season. It's the last one of those, too. If the Wolverines win this afternoon in Indianapolis, they'll participate in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. If not, they'll sweat it out on Sunday.
In the teams' lone meeting this season, Illinois emerged victorious in a heartbreaker for fans of the maize-and-blue, as Evan Smotrycz and Stu Douglass missed potential game-winners from 3. Not a bad result, considering Michigan had an uncharacteristically terrible shooting night, but you play to win the game. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Etc.
Since that game, Michigan has continued their strong late-season form, winning three of four, with the only loss coming on a banked buzzer-beater to Wisconsin. The Illini lost three of five, with the only wins coming at home against Iowa and Indiana - by far the worst teams in the league.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy:
|Michigan v. Illinois: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Illinois Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UI Def eFG%||49||24||I|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UI eFG%||155||31||II|
|Mich TO% v. UI Def TO%||13||259||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. UI TO%||254||108||II|
|Mich OReb% v. UI DReb%||327||157||II|
|Mich DReb% v. UI OReb%||67||169||MM|
|Mich FTR v. UI Opp FTR||336||67||III|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UI FTR||35||329||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. UI AdjD||52||20||I|
|Mich AdjD v. UI AdjO||51||34||I|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
The numbers are slightly more skewed in Illinois's favor than they were last time these squads played, though part of that is because the Illini closed the regular season with a trouncing of hapless Indiana (and a big boost to the Illini's field goal defense comes from unforced misses by Michigan last time around).
The keys for Michigan will primarily be based on the bigs. Michigan's post players must stay out of foul trouble. They did a decent job last time, but that's more the exception than the norm, especially against a huge team like Illinois. Keeping Illinois honest defensively will also be a key, and the Jordan Morgan pick-and-roll should be among the ways they do that.
The battle of the point guards will also be a factor. Demetri McCamey used the last game against Michigan to morph from a cancer in the locker room into the senior leader he's supposed to be. He was more scorer than distributor, but he did what he needed to do in order to win.
Finally: HIT YOUR SHOTS. Michigan's shooting had been steadily improving before last time these teams played, but 2/18 certainly isn't an encouraging factor. It's not going to be easy sledding against Illinois, so when Michigan can get an open look, they must hit it. Aside from preventing opponents from putting the ball in the net (at which they excel), the Illini are just an OK team. Take advantage when you can.
The loss in Assembly Hall left a bad taste in the mouth of Michigan's players and coaches, and they knew that a lot of their struggles were unforced. They're out to change that, and as one of the hottest teams in the country since the end of January, I think they will. Tim Hardaway Jr. will lead Michigan in rebounds and scoring, with Darius Morris close to matching his numbers (with assists instead of boards). Michigan pulls away to end the game, earning the 70-63 win.