Although Michigan State got screwed over by the committee having to face Duke potentially, the Wolverines are in the loaded West region. Michigan’s road to the final four is a tricky one, and one with many potential Cinderellas and plenty of NBA prospects in their way. Will Michigan’s struggling offense and elite defense get them to Minnesota?
Round of 64: #15 Montana
Michigan will open their tournament run against Montana yet again. The Big Sky champions come in as one of the most efficient teams in the tournament. Montana has the type of offense that could be a big problem for the Wolverines, but history isn’t on the Grizzlies side. 2 seeds have only lost eight times all time losing the other 128, and the most recent time was Michigan State against Middle Tennessee State in 2016.
Second Round: #7 Nevada
The Martin twins of Nevada could prove to be a very tough matchup for the Wolverines. Last year, Michigan’s second game was the closest, ending in Jordan Poole’s iconic buzzer beater against the 6 seed Houston Cougars. This year, the Gators and the Wolf Pack each look to upset the 2 seed Wolverines. Nevada should be able to get the job done against the Gators who have gotten hot down the stretch. The Wolf Pack have really fallen in March going from #7 overall to a 7 seed. Losing to Utah State in bizarre fashion and losing to the San Diego State Aztecs in the Mountain West tournament. The Gators will try to upset the Wolf Pack, but I predict that Michigan will face Nevada in the second round, with the Wolverines winning with the score being a little too close for comfort.
Sweet 16: #3 Texas Tech
The most likely opponent for the Wolverines in the Sweet 16 is the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. They are led by the lottery pick Jarrett Culver, a combo guard with elite defensive and offensive skills. While Buffalo is the highest ever MAC seeded team in the tournament, and the two 11 seeds have NBA prospects with SJU’s Shamorie Ponds and ASU’s Luguentz Dort, Texas Tech is the team Michigan will face. This will be Michigan’s toughest game until the Final Four and hopefully the Michigan team in late 2018 will show up to beat the Big 12 champions to advance to the Elite 8.
Elite 8: #1 Gonzaga
This is the toughest game to predict the opponent of as a lot of these teams have a good chance of making it. Gonzaga is the obvious favorite to be here and they are led by forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke. A popular upset pick is Syracuse and their famous zone defense. The Orange always show up in March and can beat anyone due to their duo of guard Tyus Battle and forward Oshae Brissett. Florida State put up a strong bid to upset Duke in the ACC title game, but it didn’t happen. The Seminoles could definitely give the Wolverines a hard time if they make it there. Marquette and Murray State will be the most interesting game of the first round due to the Markus Howard vs Ja Morant battle. Each of these teams most likely won’t make the Elite 8 but as we’ve seen many times in March, one player can carry a team and these two-point guards sure can. Gonzaga will be the team to beat.
Potential Final Four Matchups: #1 Duke/#2 Michigan State
If Michigan can turn the clock back and somehow make it to the Final Four then they will come up against two tough opponents. On one hand you got Duke, the overwhelming favorite and absolute juggernaut with Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett and of course, Zion Williamson. On the other hand, you have the Spartans who we all know too well that MSU has Michigan’s number sweeping the regular season series and winning the Big Ten title game against the Maize and Blue.