By Nolan Silbernagel on March 26, 2014
Michigan enters this matchup coming off a dominating 79-65 win over Texas in which it set a school record for most 3-pointers made during a national tournament game. Tennessee is trying to play the role of Cinderella as it has reached the Sweet 16 despite being a No. 11 seed. However, the Volunteers have gotten some lucky breaks along the way, and it seems like their luck will run out on Friday night when they run into the Wolverines.
Michigan fell one game short in its pursuit of the national title last year, and that experience will be huge for the Wolverines as they not only compete in the Sweet 16, but in future games. This is a battle-tested team that has played on the biggest stage, and they are experienced enough to not overlook Tennessee.
John Beilein has been instrumental in turning around this Michigan basketball program, and he is a top-five finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award. With a full week to study tape on Tennessee and to get his team prepared for the game, there is no way the Wolverines will be caught off guard by the upstart Volunteers.
Everyone loves a Cinderella team, but the Volunteers have had a really easy road so far. They were matched up with an Atlantic Ten opponent in UMASS in the opening round and lucked out by having to face unknown No. 14 seed Mercer University because of their upset of high-powered Duke. Michigan will be by far their toughest opponent of the tournament thus far.
Michigan lost both Trey Burke (2013 National Player of the Year) and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the first round of last year's NBA draft. Nik Stauskas has done a phenomenal job in filling those holes by being named the Big Ten player of the year this season. Stauskas presents superstar power that UMASS and Mercer did not possess, so do not be surprised to see him go off against a Tennessee team that has not had to face his type of talent yet.
After winning the regular season title for the first time in 28 years, the Wolverines were the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten championship. They fell short of that goal, however, as they lost to in-state rival Michigan State 69-55. That painful loss might be the spark plug that gives Michigan the motivation to not falter again in their journey to a national championship.
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