Big Dance First Round Preview: (15) Wofford Terriers

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan begins its NCAA Tournament campaign with the 15-seed Wofford Terriers in Milwaukee tomorrow.

Date: Thursday, March 20

Time: 7:10 ET

Place: BMO Harris Bradley Center--Milwaukee, Wis.

TV: CBS

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Season So Far

The Terriers didn't win the Southern Conference regular season title (that distinction went to Davidson), but they did manage to win their conference tournament, thus landing an automatic bid to the Big Dance.

Wofford finished with a 20-12 (11-5) mark, good for third in the conference. However, with wins against The Citadel, Georgia Southern and Western Carolina--Davidson was bounced in the semifinals by WCU--they punched their ticket to the dance.

With that said, the Terriers don't have an incredibly strong resume otherwise, 15-seed or not. They were spanked by just about every time of note in the nonconference schedule, including double-digit defeats against Georgia, Iona, Minnesota, Saint Louis and VCU.

In the conference schedule, Davidson knocked off the Terriers by scores of 78-63 in Spartanburg and 59-49 in Davidson.

Wofford went 0-8 against RPI top 150 opponents, in addition to four losses against teams in the 150+ range (High Point, Chattanooga x2 and UNC-Greensboro).

Their best win of the season? At RPI No. 163 Elon on Feb. 27, 63-59.

Personnel

As you probably know by know, Wofford won't trouble the Wolverines much at all with size, which was a major factor in Michigan's defeat against Ohio University in the first round a couple of years ago (in addition to, of course, lots of D.J. Cooper).

Forwards Lee Skinner and C.J. Neumann got the start against WCU, in addition to guards Spencer Collins, Eric Garcia and Karl Cochran. The 6-foot-1 Cochran led the way in that game with 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting, 5-for-10 from three. Needless to say, he is The Guy.

Of that starting five, Neumann is the tallest, at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds. Skinner checks in at 6-foot-6, 220. Off the bench, sophomore Justin Gordon (6-foot-6) and senior Aerris Smith (6-foot-8) are the only guys on the roster providing any sort of height.

Cochran (40 percent) and Garcia (47 percent) can both really shoot it from downtown; without the size of a traditional power, it appears as if Michigan should coast as long as these guys don't go all Yogi Ferrell on the Wolverines. FWIW, the Terriers shoot 37 percent from three as a team. good for 67th nationally (3rd in the SoCon).

Lastly, despite a lack of size, the Terriers boasted a defensive rebounding percentage of 72 percent, good for 36th nationally. Of course, level of competition caveats heavily apply, but at the very least Michigan can't expect an offensive rebounding bonanza just because their jerseys say Michigan on the front (not to mention the fact that Michigan isn't an exceptional offensive rebounding squad anyway).

Across the board, nothing really jumps out about this team save for the three-point shooting, even when you take into account that they are a 15-seed. They do some things relatively well for a team of their profile, but, otherwise, nothing points toward them being the dreaded matchup nightmare underdog.

Game Keys

  • Attack. Simply put, Michigan should be able to get whatever it wants on offense. If Good Glenn Robinson III and assist-dealing Nik Stauskas don't show up, that would be a very bad sign indeed.
  • Get a hand up. If you've even just occasionally watched Michigan this year, you'll know that teams have had some major success firing away from outside against the Wolverines. Even teams like Indiana and Purdue (in West Lafayette) obliterated the Wolverines from long range. Sure, some will argue that three-point defense involves some luck as opposed to purely being a "skill." However, getting a hand up and using your length (e.g. Caris LeVert) goes a long way toward slowing down any three-point-based attack.
  • Strong start. Most tournament games featuring a heavy favorite generally amble around for a little while, with a three here and a three there giving the underdog some vague hope of short-term survival and then maybe something more. You would think that the guys from that 2011-12 team still on the roster will have the Ohio game in mind (of course, this would be a much bigger upset than that was). Get out there, take care of business early and Wofford doesn't have the second-chance-shot-creating ability to keep them in the game if Michigan launches an early run.

Outlook

Teams carrying a shiny 2-seed have lost in the first round before, and will lose again. However, one would think Michigan has more than enough to survive even its worst performance in this one.

Many folks are touting Michigan as one of the "vulnerable" giants (in fact, they were listed as such in the most recent ESPN The Magazine I looked through last night) simply for their reliance on the triple. In games featuring a team matching or exceeding Michigan's talent, this is definitely a valid point.

Against Wofford, though, it would take a catastrophic performance, not to mention foul trouble and potentially even an injury to a key player (God forbid).

As is often the case in these games, Wofford will deliver a figurative punch or two early, maybe even a run, but the Wolverines simply have too much to go down in the first round this time. Michigan rolls to the next round, in which it will face the winner of Texas-Arizona State.

(Knock on wood.)

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