The Michigan Wolverines and UCLA Bruins took care of business on Sunday, earning a date with each other with a trip to the Final Four on the line. There is not much time to prepare between the Sunday and Tuesday contests, but UCLA’s Mick Cronin knows that his team will have a massive test ahead of it.
“Michigan’s going to be a great challenge,” Cronin said during Monday’s media availability. “Juwan Howard does a great job. They’re extremely efficient. They carve you up. It’s going to be a different type of game. Alabama was unbelievably fast in transition. Michigan is Big Ten basketball, physical, but their execution is extremely impressive.
“Their unselfishness and their execution, their assist-to-turnover ratio in their last five to 10 games is unbelievable. And they’ve got seniors. They’ve got great senior guards. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Head coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines are coming off a pair of wins over long and skilled teams in LSU and Florida State. They are doing it without one of their best players in Isaiah Livers, which has shined more of a light on the coaching job that is being done by the man in charge of the Wolverines.
“I would say, again, my impression of being up all night is that coach Howard does an elite job,” Cronin said. “He doesn’t do a good job. He does an elite job. When your team is as organized as they are on both ends and plays as physical and tough as they do, that is a reflection of their coach.”
UCLA comes into the contest as an 11-seed, but they are a much better basketball team than the seeding would indicate. The Bruins rank No. 16 on KenPom and have been able to make a run from the First Four to the Elite Eight due to clutch shot-making and increased defensive aptitude.
“Our defense is why we’re alive,” Cronin said. “And our defense is why we will survive. We’ve got multiple guys who can shoot the ball. We share it. The guys believe, they’re aggressive, they’re not afraid to pull the trigger. And that’s how I want them on the offensive end. The big question is with Michigan’s efficiency and their talent and their play-calling, will we be able to continue defending the way we’ve defended here lately?”
KenPom projects a 71-65 win for the Wolverines in a game that tips off Tuesday at 9:57 p.m. ET on TBS from Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.