Michigan 87 - Kansas 85
Michigan's weekend looked to be over before it began. Kansas came out strong against the Wolverines and controlled the game through much of the first 35 minutes, keeping the lead at around 7 or 8 points at almost all times, and stretching it to as much as 14 points with 6:50 left to play.
Of course, you know how this one ends. Michigan holds Kansas to just 17 points over the remaining 12 minutes of gametime, erases a five point lead with 21 seconds left, and gets a highlight that you'll one day be able to show your kids while gushing over what a joy it was to watch Trey Burke.
(I have watched this clip approximately 1,204,534 times since Friday night)
In overtime Michigan continued to play well, getting five quick points from Trey Burke and a couple key defensive plays to eek out a two-point win and advance to the Elite Eight. The stats are certainly something.
Those eFG% numbers still favor Kansas because the Jayhawks simply didn't miss early on. Michigan's defense was reeling as Kansas consistently got into the lane for layups, and pretty much anything in transition was a guaranteed two for the Jayhawks for most of the game. A little over ten minutes into the half Kansas was shooting just a hair under 85% from the floor, a number that would drop to 70% by halftime. However, as Michigan's defense upped the pressure and its offense found a groove, those numbers came together and by the end Michigan was only back three percentage points.
The really surprising thing about the game was that Michigan was so easily able to rebound. Michigan finished with more total rebounds and more offensive rebounds, plus the Wolverines were 50% better on the offensive glass (an OR% of 33% compared to 22% for the Jayhawks). All of this happened with Jeff Withey playing 39 minutes.
In the battle of post players, Michigan won thoroughly. Mitch McGary built on his stellar outing against a small VCU team by going HAM on Withey. The freshman finished with 25 points on 12/17 shooting, 14 rebounds (five offensive), three steals, one assist, one block, all with only one turnover and two fouls. Take a second and read that last sentence again:
The freshman finished with 25 points on 12/17 shooting, 14 rebounds (five offensive), three steals, one assist, one block, all with only one turnover and two fouls.
That is an all-American-esque stat line against a seven-foot senior that was 1st team all-Big 12, the Big 12 Defensive PotY, and a 2nd team all-American to Sporting News.
In the immortal words of Gwen Stefani, "that shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S."
Of course credit has to go to Trey Burke here. He struggled shooting early in the game, but his ability to attack the lane continually put Jeff Withey in a bad situation where he had to choose either A) challenging Burke's shot or B) staying home on McGary. With the way these two have played so far this tournament, it almost doesn't matter what you choose, it'll be the wrong answer.
Other stats of note:
- Michigan's odds of winning the game based on KenPom's win probability model were less than one-percent (0,62%) with two and a half minutes left. Shockingly, this was the 15th least likely comeback of the season.
- Michigan also managed to keep its TO% at 13.3, no doubt helping Michigan keep the game close as Kansas did basically anything it wanted offensively for most of the game. This is the third lowest TO% Kansas has forced all season.
- This is totally unscientific, but after watching the replay, I don't think Trey Burke hit one three-pointer that was closer than 25 feet all night.
Michigan 79- Florida 59
Things couldn't have gone much more different against Florida two days after the Kansas comeback. Michigan came out on fire and torched Florida en route to 47 first half points and an eventual 20 point margin of victory. In fact, once Michigan pushed the lead to double digits -- going up 11-0 2:14 into the game -- the lead would stay there for the rest of the game, and Michigan's win probability percentage would hover over 75% for nearly the entire last 30 minutes of the game.
Michigan shredded Florida's vaunted defense early and emphatically answered every push that the Gators made to get the game back near a competitive score.
Two things stand out upon first glance.
1) Michigan shot the lights out. The Wolverines put up an eFG% of 53.8 while hitting 10/19 from behind the arc. Michigan's 2pt percentage wasn't stellar -- just 43% on 46 attempts -- but when you hit threes at such a high rate you can miss a few shots inside the arc. Contrast this to Florida, which was just 2/10 from outside -- the Gators came into the game as one of the best and most frequent three-point shooting teams in the nation, and they barely got a clean shot off from outside -- and just one shot better inside the arc (Florida was 21/46 from 2pt, while Michigan hit 20 shots inside the arc.
2) Once again we have another instance of John Beilein Ball Control For The Win. Michigan turned the ball over just 11 times all game (15.5% TO rate) while playing one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Even more incredible? Michigan did all of this while starting three freshmen and getting a total of 104 minutes from first year players. The VCU game was no joke. It is beginning to look like a no-brainer: when the match up is between Michigan's ball control offense and another team's turnover forcing defense, bet on Michigan. Of course there is always the test next Saturday (and potentially the Monday after) to see how much longer this holds true.
- I'm leading with this just because. WHO IS THE UNRANKED POINT GUARD RECRUIT NOW MOTHERF***ERS?
Spike Albrecht played 14 minutes against one of the best defensive teams in the country and came up huge. His steal on the inbounds murdered the burgeoning Florida second half run and was probably the play most responsible for swinging momentum back in Michigan's favor. He also came up with a big steal late that led to a layup that went in DESPITE BEING GOALTENDED (when it's your day, it's your day), and then nailed a three from the wing on the next possession to officially close the door on Florida.
That Michigan is getting 20 point games from its three freshman starters is huge, but a player like Spike Albrecht stepping onto that stage and having such a huge impact in a limited role is the kind of thing that puts a team like this one over the top. If Spike and Caris LeVert (who is going to haunt Scottie Wilbekin's dreams for years) can step in for 5-10 minutes each and provide a couple of these plays, Michigan is going to be very hard to stop.
- Also, a shout out to Glenn Robinson III, whose defense I have been ragging on for probably a month now. Nobody expected GRIII to match up well with Florida's forwards, but his great post defense on the opening two possessions sparked Michigan's offensive run and took Erik Murphy's head out of the game (he would finish 0-11).
- Nik Stuaskas, come on down, you're the next contestant on Who Wants To Embarrass Florida's Defense. Stauskas hit just four threes in all of Michigan's postseason play before Sunday. He hit all six of his triples and generated 20 points off threes alone (thanks to a stupid foul at the end of the half by Florida). His first half outburst was exactly what Michigan needed to really bury Florida, and by his fourth or fifth (I can't even remember) make it almost seemed like he was toying with the defense, as he caught the ball in the corner, dribbled one step deeper into the corner to avoid a closeout by the Gator defense, and then calmly knocked down the shot despite upping the level of difficulty. If you're thinking "hey, there is no better time for Nik Stuaskas to catch fire than right about the time Michigan is set to face a suffocating 2-3 zone defense" then you A) have a pulse and B) have watched at least one basketball game in your life. Come on, Nik. Keep this up.
So there you have it. You have just witnessed what was quite possibly the greatest weekend of Michigan basketball in history. The Wolverines pulled an all-time comeback against a number one seed, led by the far and away front runner for the Wooden Award -- who delivered the highlight of the tournament -- and followed that up with a dominating win against KenPom's number one team and a trendy pick to win it all.
Between 6:50 left in the Kansas game and halftime of the Florida game, Michigan played 32 minutes of basketball and outscored two of the best teams in the country 79-47.
Now Michigan is in the Final Four for the first time in 20 years.
I'm going to say the same thing I've been saying for two months: enjoy this while you can, because these kinds of runs don't happen very often.