Brooklyn, New York- After a close win last night ending around 11:30pm in Dayton against Tulsa, the Michigan basketball team boarded a plane for New York arriving at 3am today. They had little time to enjoy the win before heading to the big apple to check in and get some rest. Coach Beilein is allowing them to sleep in because of the late night traveling since open practice is not until 6:40pm. He said, “We’re going to probably have this first time I’ll probably ever say this to the guys: All right, sleep until noon. We’ll worry about Notre Dame after that. We won’t have any morning meetings or anything.”
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) March 17, 2016
The game tomorrow against No. 6 Notre Dame will be the fifth game in nine days spanning three cities for Michigan. Walton said on their next stop, “It’s kind of fun. Just invade cities playing basketball, which is what we love to do.” The last four games include a much needed win against Northwestern in overtime, a buzzer beater against Indiana, a 76-59 loss against a big Purdue team, and close five point win against high-flying Tulsa. While last night was not the teams best performance, they are running on adrenaline and confidence that just may be the recipe to pull off the upset.
Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7 ACC) made it to the elite eight last season and have many of the same players back. Zach Auguste is a beastly forward who had a solid tournament performance last season. He was hard to cover against Duke in the ACC tournament having 19 points and 23 rebounds. Another player having a great season is junior guard Demetrius Jackson, averaging 15.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
The Irish are the lowest ranked sixth seed this year in the tournament and per KenPom, Michigan has a 45% chance of winning. Notre Dame got beat by 31 against North Carolina after getting past Duke in the ACC tournament. Some of the other notable losses include Monmouth, Indiana, Florida State by 21 points and Miami, Florida by 18.
Keys to Victory
Improve Outside Shooting
Last night, Michigan hit 24% (6 of 25) from three-point range, while their season average is closer to 38%. Notre Dame is 172nd nationally in defense efficiency and 313th in three-point defense. Michigan needs to improve the shooting beyond the arch to keep it close.
Spread the Wealth
While last nights win did not get many style points, except for the huge three-point shot by Zak Irvin, we had several with double digit points (Walton Jr. 12, Abdur-Rahkman 16, Irvin 16, Robinson 13). Michigan need to continue this against Notre Dame, who also have five players averaging double digit points per game.
Wagner is averaging eight minutes per game this season off the bench. Last night he played 22 minutes, had four points, eight rebounds, four blocks and a steal against Tulsa. Doyle was in the game for five minutes and had four points. Chatman, the hero against Indiana last Friday, had zero points in four minutes. This is one issue for Notre Dame, the highest average bench points is 5.7 from Matt Ryan who plays 15.5 minutes per game.
Both teams have some quality wins and ugly losses. If Michigan can improve their outside shooting, force fouls causing starters to sit, and have guys off the bench perform well, they can pull the upset. Las Vegas opened the line today with Notre Dame favored by 1.5 points.