The No.3 Michigan Wolverines are one win away from their first National Championship appearance since 2013.
It’s no surprise that the squad John Beilein currently has is one of the best he’s ever had in his eleven seasons with the Wolverines. I mean, they scored 99 points and shot 58 percent from three in the Sweet Sixteen.
They’re really good, but they’re not perfect.
In order to hush the No. 11 Loyola Ramblers Saturday in San Antonio to advance to the title game, they’ll need to correct a few weaknesses and tendencies we’ve seen so far in the tournament.
Free throw shooting
This is something that Michigan has struggled with for quite some time now.
They’re a really, really bad free-throw shooting team, owning a FT percentage of 66.2.
Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews, two of Michigan’s best scorers, shoot 51 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Even Moritz Wagner, another one of Beilein’s best scorers, averages less than 70 percent (69.6) at the line.
For a team that gets to the charity stripe at an average of 17 times per game, they simply need to be better if they want to advance. They can’t give games away through the ineffectiveness of their free-throw shooting.
In the tournament against Florida State, Houston, and Montana, the Wolverines have combined to shoot 44-for-66, which is pretty spot on with their average of the 2017-18 season.
Against Texas A&M, a game in which they beat the Aggies by 27 points, the Wolverines were 7-for-8 from the line. They’ll have to find a way to replicate that kind of effort to win their first title since 1989.
Michigan has really struggled with this in the tournament, as well.
It’s imperative the main culprits, Wagner and Duncan Robinson, play smart and effective while available for all 40 minutes the rest of the way. Both have been in foul trouble in every game this tourney.
Wagner has tallied four fouls in every game but the Texas A&M game, in which he finished that one with three. Robinson fouled out against Houston, but has been called for four in every other game.
Loyola is a good free-throw shooting bunch, averaging 72.2 percent on the year. Dating back to their last three games, the Ramblers have converted on 32 free throws in 42 attempts (76.2 percent).
Michigan could find itself in trouble if its best players are quick to land in foul trouble, while sending a strong free-throw shooting team like Loyola to the line.
They’re good enough and hot enough as is, they don’t need free points.
This really hasn’t been a struggle, but more of an inconsistency at this point in the tournament.
Michigan is electric and arguably unstoppable when its able to shoot the three-ball to its normal standards. The Wolverines connected on 36.6 percent of threes on the year, but with the exception of the A&M game in which they were 14-for-24, they’ve shot just 25 percent on 68 attempts in the tournament.
We really see a difference in this Michigan team when they’re able to hit from deep. They ran the Aggies out of the gym in the Sweet Sixteen when they made it rain in Los Angeles. The other three games exposed this offense a bit when they were cold from beyond the arc. Thankfully, Michigan’s defense has bailed out these poor shooting performances.
Hopefully Michigan’s defense doesn’t have to be so heavily relied on come Saturday. If Michigan corrects the issues above, red hot Loyola will have no shot against the Wolverines.
If Michigan’s able to find a similar stroke like the one from the Aggies game, if they shoot better from three, if they make their free throws, they will be playing in the National Championship game.