How good is Michigan? That might depend on how good you believe the Big Ten Conference is. Michigan had a 13-7 conference record and but among the top teams only managed to beat Ohio State and Michigan State at home. Michigan lost both games it played against Indiana, lost to Wisconsin twice and lost to a Penn State team that went 2-17 in conference play. While the Big Ten was regarded by many as the best conference in college basketball for much of the season, teams have had mixed results in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan was considered one of the best teams in the country when conference play began, but much like Syracuse, lost respect during an extended slump.
The emergence of freshman center Mitch McGary turned the Wolverine's season around as he finally provided a consistent post presence and rebounder for the team. McGary is the leading rebounder in the NCAA tournament, averaging 11.5 boards per game. If Syracuse loses track of him, Michigan could have a lot of second shot opportunities.
Point guard Trey Burke is one of the best players in the country and just received the John Wooden Award. It is given to the best player in college basketball each year. Burke was also named to the All-American team and given the AP player of the year award. While Burke may be the biggest star on the Wolverine's roster guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas have also been outstanding all season. Hardaway has provided consistent scoring and Stauskas has been one of the best shooters in the country. Against Florida, Stauskas went 6 for 6 from behind the three point line.
In interviews, Michigan players said they needed to be patient and look for good outside shots against the Syracuse zone but also move the ball quickly and get defenders off balance.
"We can't get too greedy. We can't fall in love with the three-point line, start taking deep threes," said Burke. "We just have to find different ways to attack the zone. When we see areas where we could attack, we have to try to exploit it."
While all of Michigan's losses were to Big Ten teams, the Wolverines also had significant out of conference wins against Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Arkansas and North Carolina State. In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan easily blew out South Dakota State, VCU, and Florida. The only close game they have played was a Sweet Sixteen matchup against Kansas that Michigan won in overtime.