Michigan Basketball will play Kansas on Friday in a Sweet 16 matchup. Tip off is scheduled for 7:37 (EST) and the game will be televised on TBS.
Kansas is the #1 seed in the South Region. They advanced to the Sweet 16 by edging past Western Kentucky on Friday and storming past North Carolina on Sunday. The Jayhawks are an outstanding defensive team. “The big thing that stands out about Bill Self’s team is their defensive field goal percentage,” John Beilein said in a radio interview on ESPN with Mike and Mike. “You just are not going to get that many open shots. You gotta make the ones when you’re open, they’re not going to give you a lot of second opportunities. It’s their defense that really always feeds them.” That defensive field goal percentage Beilein mentioned is a stout 35.7% which leads the nation.
Kansas is also an experienced team that starts 4 seniors. One of those seniors is Jeff Withey who leads the country in blocked shots (141). The 7-foot Withey has already swatted 12 shots in the NCAA Tournament. Senior guard Travis Releford is a good all-around player who plays with energy. Freshman Ben McLemore has struggled in the tourney, but is a phenomenal talent.
Kansas played a great second half against North Carolina, but the other 3 halves that they played this past weekend were less than impressive. They really struggled against 16-seed Western Kentucky and had the Hilltoppers been able to hit any shots, they would have been the first 16 to win a game in the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan cruised through the opening weekend of the tournament with two impressive victories, including a total dismantling of VCU and their famed Havoc defense on Saturday. Leading the charge for the Wolverines has been freshman big man Mitch McGary. He possesses the unusual combination of being a bruising and energetic player. McGary is an absolute load in the paint and also plays with a Dennis Rodman like intensity. He can set a bone crunching screen and is a tremendous rebounder. McGary is exceptional at triggering fast breaks after he clears a defensive rebound by immediately looking up court and snapping off long outlet passes to Michigan’s streaking set of playmakers.
Just how good has McGary been in the first two games of the tournament? He tallied 13 points and 9 rebounds against South Dakota State. In Michigan’s win over VCU, McGary was sensational, going 10-11 from the field for 21 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. The most impressive facet of his game is the relentless effort and enthusiasm that he plays with. “That’s the way I’ve always played. The high energy, defense guy and blue-collar worker, and people feed off that,” McGary said in an interview on WDFN-AM (1130)’s “Shep in the Morning” show.
Besides McGary, another advantage Michigan has is that the best player on the court Friday night will be wearing a #3 Michigan jersey. Trey Burke is an elite player and now is his time to shine.
Areas of concern
For Michigan, it’s just what John Beilein said above, Kansas plays great defense and they don’t give up a lot of open shots. With Jeff Withey locking down the area around the rim, the other players are able to be more aggressive on the perimeter.
For Kansas, they don’t want to let the Wolverines get loose in the open court. One look at the VCU film will tell you that. Michigan is a very efficient and dynamic offensive team. The Jayhawks turned the ball over 22 times on Sunday against North Carolina. If they do that against U-M it will be a recipe for disaster.
The winner of Michigan vs Kansas will play the winner of Florida vs Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday in the Great Eight.
Trey Burke has been named a finalist for the Naismith Award
Josh Bartelstein talks about Michigan’s great opening weekend in his blog on MGoBlue.com
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