NCAA Basketball Michigan Wolverines

2013 NCAA Final Four: Five Michigan Wolverines To Watch

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2013 Final Four: Five Michigan Wolverines To Watch

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines have had a fairly easy run to their first Final Four appearance since the Fab Five’s heyday in 1993, with three of their four NCAA Tournament victories coming by at least 15 points while averaging 78.8 points per game. They have also allowed less than 60 points in three of those four games, which should not be overlooked as they head to Atlanta.

A great challenge will come for Michigan in the second game on Saturday night against Syracuse and their vaunted zone defense. The Orange have forced more turnovers (65) than their opponents have made field goals (61) through four NCAA Tournament games, and not surprisingly those four opponents have averaged less than 46 points per game.

Michigan would also face a tough defense in the national title game next Monday night if they advance, as Louisville and Wichita State have also stifled opponents’ offensive game plans thus far in the tournament. But with plenty of capable all-around talent offensively, led by the backcourt of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., the Wolverines are well-equipped to handle tough defenses.

The Wolverines are also battled-tested, having made it through a tough Big Ten Conference with a 12-6 record and beating VCU, Kansas and Florida on their road to Atlanta. The stage will be big this weekend, but Michigan should not be mesmerized by the bright lights.

With that, here are five players that will individually and collectively hold the keys to Michigan’s chances to take home their first national title since 1989.

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5. Guard Nik Stauskas

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Stauskas went 6-for-6 on three-pointers and matched his season-high with 22 points against Florida last Sunday, and he has upped his production by averaging 16.5 points per game over the last two games. Stauskas is not the most important player for the Wolverines, but his shooting percentage from beyond the arc may go a long way toward determining their Final Four results.

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4. Forward Glenn Robinson III

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Robinson III’s point production has been a bit inconsistent all season, and that has not changed during the NCAA Tournament (21 points against South Dakota State and just six points last Sunday against Florida). He may see extra opportunities if Burke and Hardaway Jr. become the focus of defensive attention, and if he is able to take full advantage that will be huge for the Wolverines.

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3. Center Mitch McGary

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McGary has emerged as a force at an important time for Michigan, averaging 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds over the last six games. He will have to maintain that production, take advantage of the opportunities he gets and stay out of foul trouble for the Wolverines to have a chance to cut down the nets in Atlanta.

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2. Guard Trey Burke

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The Big Ten Player of the Year is not afraid to take and is able to make clutch shots, as evidenced by his performance in the second half and overtime of Michigan’s Sweet 16 game against Kansas. His offensive contribution goes without saying, but Burke will have to play well defensively and stay out of foul trouble if the Wolverines are to have a noteworthy Final Four appearance.

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1. Guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

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Hardaway Jr. is second on the Wolverines in scoring (14.6 points per game) and assists (2.3 per game), and he is also third on the team in rebounding (4.6 per game). He has not shot well over the last three games (12-for-35 from the floor), but his other contributions on the stat sheet have not gone away. Hardaway Jr.’s greatest contribution over the next two games, if Michigan advances obviously, may be a relatively silent one as a secondary ball handler and decision maker after Burke.