Jeff Seidel: Sweet 16 reasons Michigan will beat Tennessee (or not)

The game tips off in 45 minutes
Mar 28, 2014

 

 

Oh, Sweet 16. Here are 16 reasons Michigan will beat Tennessee on Friday night in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Although for every reason Michigan should win, there is a counter argument why Michigan fans should be nervous.

The No. 1 reason: The Volunteers have a size advantage down low, using two big men, but Michigan relies on outside shooting. The Wolverines are the eighth-best three-point shooting team in the country (39.8 percent).

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee has size, length and quickness on the perimeter, too. In the NCAA tournament, Tennessee has forced all three of its opponents to struggle from three-point range and shoot worse than normal: Iowa (4-for-16), UMass (3-11) and Mercer (8-22).

Reason No. 2: Michigan plays in the Big Ten, the best basketball conference in the land, which has three teams in the Sweet 16.

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee comes from the Southeastern Conference, which also has put three teams in the Sweet 16.

Reason No. 3: Michigan is a tough, tested, consistent team. The Wolverines had to fight through adversity this season after Mitch McGary was lost with a back injury.

Reason to be nervous: Adversity? This Tennessee team has faced it all year. Coach Cuonzo Martin was so despised by some fans that they made an online petition to fire him and bring back Bruce Pearl.

Reason No. 4: Tennessee was seriously lucky when it faced Mercer instead of Duke. And yes, I know, this seriously messed up your bracket, too.

Reason to be nervous: Mercer beat Duke fair and square; and then Tennessee just walloped Mercer. The Volunteers have crushed everybody on their way to the Sweet 16.

Reason No. 5: Michigan made it to the NCAA championship game last year, so the Wolverines have tremendous experience in big games and on big stages, even though this team is still young.

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee is an old-school team. The Volunteers look like what Sweet 16 teams used to look like. Tennessee starts three seniors and two juniors and rely on a great inside-outside game. Take that, one-and-doners.

Reason No. 6: Michigan has an efficient offense that can score a lot of points.

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee is seriously tough on the boards.

Reason No. 7: Tennessee starts two wide-body bigs: Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, 6-foot-8 forwards who grab 19 rebounds a game between them. But the Wolverines just played Texas, which was even bigger, or at least wider.

Reason to be nervous: The difference is, Texas was big and slow in comparison. These Tennessee bigs are more athletic and more talented.

Reason No. 8: Michigan plays with a chip on its shoulder.

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee had to fight just to get into the Round of 64.

Reason No .9: Glenn Robinson III has scored 14 points in his past two games and took over against Texas, at least for a time during a crucial moment.

Strange tidbit: The Tennessee coach attended Purdue and played alongside Robinson’s dad.

Reason No. 10: Michigan point guard Derrick Walton Jr. is playing with consistency and strength. His defense continues to improve.

Reason to be nervous: Walton probably will be matched up against Antonio Barton, a 6-2 point guard. Barton has struggled at times. He shot 2-for-15 in the first two tournament games, but he was 4-for-9 from three-point range against Mercer.

Reason No. 11: Nik Stauskas is playing like an All-American. He has made seven of 15 three-point shots in the NCAA tournament and is averaging 16 points.

Reason to be nervous: Josh Richardson probably will guard Stauskas. He is the Volunteers’ best defender and has the size and arm length to make most three-point shooters a little uncomfortable.

Reason No. 12: Tennessee is a horrible three-point shooting team (32.6 percent, 264th in the country). And the Volunteers miss a lot of shots, making only 45.1 percent from the field, 132nd in the country.

Reason to be nervous: OK. So they miss a lot. But that only means there are more rebounds to be grabbed. Tennessee is the eighth-best offensive rebounding team in the country.

Reason No. 13: Caris LeVert is playing great defense. He probably will be matched up against Jordan McRae, who is averaging 18.6 points.

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee likes to pound the ball inside, then kick it out.

Reason No. 14: Michigan is averaging 74 points per game and holding opponents to 64.6.

Reason to be nervous: Tennessee has almost identical numbers, averaging 72.3 points and allowing 61.4.

Reason No. 15: Tennessee doesn’t have much of an outside threat, so U-M should be able to sag off the perimeter and play help defense in the paint, getting their hands in passing lanes, and collapsing every chance they get.

Reason to be nervous: Richardson has exploded during the tournament, averaging 19.3 points in his past three games, more than twice what he averaged in the regular season.

Reason No. 16: OK, maybe this one should have been first. Michigan has coach John Beilein. With a week to prepare, Beilein will tip the balance.

The big prediction: Michigan 78, Tennessee 72.

 

 

 

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