The NCAA Tournament can be a magical event. As a matter of fact, it is.
For the #7 seed Michigan Wolverines (24-11), they have been on a magical carpet ride over the last week. One that took them from a scary occurrence on a runway in Washington, D.C. to winning the Big Ten tournament. One in which they entered the entire tournament as an eighth seed. Now they focus on the Oklahoma State Cowboys (20-12), who enter the NCAA tournament as the eighth highest-scoring team in all of college basketball. Who will prevail? Let’s preview Friday’s 12:15 pm matchup.
What To Know About Michigan:
With the one-two punch in point guard Derrick Walton Jr. and shooting guard Zak Irvin, the Wolverines have an unorthodox offense that features a heavy influx in three-pointers taken. As a matter of fact, Michigan is 13th in the NCAA in 3-point attempts with 860 and 12th in 3-point field goals made with 326. Both Irvin and Walton are seniors and have led the charge for a Michigan team that has won 10 of their last 12 contests. Forward Mortiz Wagner was key for the Wolverines during the tournament, especially in the semis against Minnesota with 17 points and four rebounds. As the team’s third leading scorer (12.0), Wagner also has a key role in Michigan’s success. The Wolverines can be deadly behind the arc. Their 48.3 field goal percentage led the Big Ten and when Michigan gets things rolling, they can give teams more than a handful.
What To Know About Oklahoma State:
Guard Jawun Evans is the team’s nucleus and leads the team in scoring at 19.0 ppg. With Evans are a pair of productive scorers in guard Jeffery Carroll ( 17.4 ppg) and guard Phil Forte (13.3). First-year head coach Brad Underwood has given the Cowboys a distinctive approach, especially with the team lacking in depth. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have scored 80 or more points in seven of their last eight games and shot 46% or better from the field in six of their last eight. When things are flowing for the Cowboys, not too many teams in the country can hang. On the flip side, streakiness is what can get a team eliminated fairly quickly.
Both teams enter the tournament with a knack for scoring at will. One team enters on a losing streak while the other defied odds and captured a conference championship.
The Wolverines have a head full of steam. That ball of emotions are enough to carry a team deep into the tournament. With talent such as Walton and Irvin, the Wolverines can make things interesting. While they are mainly known for their scoring, Michigan’s defense has been quite stellar lately also. They’ve held their opponent to points scored within the 50s on three occasions during their five-game win streak.
However, this is a different beast. Mentioned before, Oklahoma State can score and score some more. An up-and-down track meet favors Oklahoma State and can spell doom for the Wolverines.
With the growing confidence and momentum, the Wolverines have enough to ride the wave and get hot in the NCAA Tournament. Expect that momentum to guide them to a round one victory thanks to a key defensive stops and having the best player on the floor in Walton, who has proven his worth in big moments.
Michigan 78 Oklahoma State 70