The Michigan Wolverines’ path to the Final Four may have gotten a bit lighter with Alabama falling to UCLA in the Sweet 16, but they certainly do not see it that way. The Bruins are red-hot after emerging victorious from the First Four.
Despite coming into the game as an 11-seed, UCLA is KenPom’s 16th-ranked team and will provide another unique challenge to head coach Juwan Howard and his staff during preparation. Howard spoke about what has his program on high alert during his media session on Monday.
“Their grit is what has impressed me the most,” he said. “Also, they’re a well-coached group that plays with a chip on their shoulder. That’s why I believe the run has been amazing, because a lot of people have dumped on them, said they don’t believe they should be here or don’t deserve to be here. I’m sure they use that as fuel to light a fire underneath them. But, it doesn’t have to, because each and every player that plays on that roster is high-character, I believe — a highly-skilled individual. I just watched the film and just seeing how they go out there and compete for 40 minutes. They don’t give up, they’re relentless, taking the ball to the basket, they shoot the ball extremely well, they attack the offensive glass. Very scrappy group.”
Michigan may come into this game as the favorite and the more talented team, but Mick Cronin’s UCLA has players on the roster — like Johnny Juzang, Cody Riley, Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell — that have the ability to throw a monkey wrench in your plans.
Howard’s team is not preparing for an easy victory. It is not even a guaranteed victory.
“They cause matchup problems throughout their roster,” Howard said. “They shoot the ball extremely well, they also attack the basket. They finish at the basket. Their great footwork, they do a great job of drawing fouls. They do an amazing job of shooting the basketball, following their own shot. This is a very competitive group and I expect a very competitive game.”
Michigan has been installed as a 7-point favorite in Vegas for Tuesday night’s contest, which tips off at 9:57 p.m. ET from Indianapolis and will be broadcast via TBS. The team that emerges from this game will take on the winner of the Gonzaga/USC contest in the Final Four on Saturday.