Given that the Michigan Wolverines are a two-seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, you have to wonder if their players enter the Big Dance disappointed over losing to rival Michigan State in the Big 10 Tournament title game which, in all likelihood, cost them a No. 1 seed. But the Wolverines don’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves, as they open NCAA Tournament play on Thursday against the Wofford Terriers, champions of the Southern Conference.
Michigan (25-8) is one of the best shooting teams in the country, entering the tournament 21st in the nation at a tad better than 48 percent from the field. While losing to Michigan State always hurts, the Wolverines had won seven games in a row prior to Sunday’s loss, good enough to capture the regular-season title in the Big 10. Nik Stauskas is the established leader for Michigan, scoring 17.5 points per game and shooting nearly 45 percent from three-point range. Michigan goes about eight deep in terms of player rotation and has done a great job to win 25 games playing most of the season without 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Mitch McGary, who is injured.
Wofford is 13-2 in its last 15 games while beating The Citadel, Georgia Southern and Western Carolina. The Terriers played a decent non-conference schedule, but didn’t register any signature wins, losing to teams like VCU, Saint Louis, Minnesota and Georgia. Wofford’s leading scorer is Karl Cochran, who averages 15.7 PPG. Spencer Collins and Lee Skinner also averaged double figures for the season. Skinner is the team’s top rebounder at 8.6 per game.
What to Watch For
One area that a mid-major or high-seed team could take advantage of Michigan is in rebounding. The Wolverines don’t even break the top 300 in the nation in rebounds. However, Wofford isn’t the type of club that will be able to capitalize on this. The Terriers are outside the top 250 themselves on the boards. How Wofford got here, however, is by scoring defense. The Terriers are 23rd in the nation, giving up just 62 points a game. Even against VCU, who likes to press the pace, Wofford only allowed 72 points despite not winning.
Michigan may find Wofford’s defense a challenge for a while, but it stands to reason that Wofford will struggle playing the best team its seen all season given its results against other decent teams. Expect the Wolverines to pull away in the second half.
Michigan 72, Wofford 55.