Dayton, Ohio- Michigan is preparing to play in the “first four” game tonight against Tulsa. The past few years under Coach Beilein have generated great success in the NCAA tournament by starting at a lower seed with an elite eight and national championship appearance. It will be a much different journey this year as a No. 11 seed, but this is a year more teams than ever before as a high seed can make a run and knock off teams in their way. With a lack of qualify wins and season ending injuries, this team wants to turn this season around by getting a win tonight for the chance to make a tournament run.
Here are the keys to Michigan getting a victory tonight sending Tulsa home.
Three Point Shooting
Michigan is averaging 74.3 points and 9.6 three-pointers per game. Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. are averaging 11.7 and Duncan Robinson at 11.2 points per game. All three players have a three-point shooting percentage above .306, Robinson at .448 percentage. With several not afraid to shoot behind the arch, including Kameron Chatman, who hit the buzzer beater against Indiana, we may see this be a popular first shot option.
Second Chance Points
Tulsa is a low rebounding team at only grabbing 27.9% of its misses. With them also having size issues, Michigan will have to crash the boards on both sides to eliminate second chance opportunities, while getting offensive rebounds adding an extra 30 seconds to draw up a play and slow down the game.
Tulsa averages 69.4 possessions per game and 16 seconds per possession. Michigan is 7th nationally with fewest turnovers per game at 9.8 and Tulsa is 10th with a turnover ratio of 3.5. If Michigan controls the clock, their adrenaline, eliminate mistakes and turnovers, they can slow down the pace against Tulsa.
Overcome Lack of Experience
When Coach Beilein went out for practice yesterday morning, he realized there are only two players (Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin) with past NCAA tournament experience. Tulsa has four starting seniors, but lack tournament experience. Walton said, “My role’s a lot different” when comparing this tournament from the past when he was a freshman. “At that point my freshman year, I was just trying to contribute any way I can. But this role’s different. In a sense, I have a heavy load. In the sense of the atmosphere….it doesn’t really matter.” While being a No. 11 is different than the last 2014 when they made the elite eight, Irvin is just grateful for this chance. Mark Donnal was on the 2014 team but was not a contributor. He said, “Just embrace it. There’s not many teams to get this on a yearly basis. Stay focused and it’s really important to take this one game at a time. You can’t be looking forward in tournaments like this.”
Michigan fans will show up tonight in Dayton and hope the players do as well, by playing hard and stepping up in the moment, like they did in the Big Ten Tournament and get the victory.