On Sunday, the NCAA Selection Committee released its 68-team field and Brad Underwood’s Cowboys find themselves a 10-seed lined up against 7-seed Michigan. The game will be played in Indianapolis on Friday, an 11:15 a.m. CT tip. The Wolverines have won five-straight including a perfect run through the Big 10 Tournament where they dominated Wisconsin in the final, 71-56.
Senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. is having his best season on campus averaging 15.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He’s shooting 43.5 percent from the field, 41.2 percent from three and 87.2 percent from the free-throw stripe in 34.6 minutes per game. A day after Jawun Evans logged 22 points and 15 rebounds against Kansas, Walton had an 18-point, 16-assist game on the road at Nebraska. He’s capable of taking over a game on the offensive end, scoring or assisting on 18 of Michigan’s final 20 points against Minnesota in the Bi g10 tourney.
Shooting guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman starts opposite Walton and gives the Wolverines another deep threat at 39 percent on the season. The junior is very athletic and thrives in an up-tempo offense. He’s averaging 9.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Small forward Zak Irvin is the Wolverines’ version of Jeffrey Carroll. He’s the No. 2 offensive option and the team’s best stopper on defense. The 6-foot-6 senior averages 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists and plays a team-high 35.2 minutes per game. Irvin is capable of hitting the three – and he shoots a bunch – but he’s shooting just 32.6 percent this season.
Power forward Moritz “Moe” Wagner is enjoying a breakout season as a sophomore. The 6-foot-11 German is fantastic in the pick and pop action with Walton as he’s got plenty of range to knock down threes. Wagner averages 12.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and shoots 40.7 percent from deep.
Another forward, D.J. Wilson leads the team in rebounds (5.4 rpg) and blocks (1.4 bpg) and is the fourth Michigan starter to average double figures in points (10.6 ppg). The 6-foot-10 junior shoots 36.5 percent from deep to give the Wolverines yet another big man who can stretch the floor. Wilson had a monster game against No. 13 Purdue in the Big 10 quarterfinals with 26 points and eight boards against the Boilermakers’ colossal front line.
Head coach John Beilein has kept a tight rotation all year long and that won’t change for the Big Dance. Senior wing Duncan Robinson is his sixth man, averaging 7.9 points and leading the team in three-point percentage at 42.7 percent. Robinson has scored in double figures 13 times this season. Mark Donnal, another senior, brings size off the bench to spell UM’s big men and freshman Xavier Simpson is Beilein’s backup point guard. Beilein’s bench contributed just three points in the Big 10 Championship game against Wisconsin.
Michigan is very balanced offensively and can spread the floor with the best. The Wolverines led the Big 10 in field goal percentage (48.3 percent), free throw percentage (77.5 percent), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5 assists per turnover) and threes made (9.4 per game).
The Wolverines have a couple glaring weaknesses though. They’re terrible rebounders, finishing dead last in the Big 10 at 29.4 per game with just 7.5 offensive rebounds per game. They’re very susceptible on the offensive glass despite having good sized post players. Michigan is a poor defensive team, allowing opponents to shoot 46.2 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from long range, two of the lowest marks in the Big 10.