Michigan had its share of doubters coming into this tournament. The Wolverines squandered an opportunity at a much higher seed when they finished 6-6 in the last 12 games of the season after being ranked No. 1 in late-January. That was around the time it was becoming clear that teams were getting ranked No. 1 just because someone had to be for the week.
South Dakota seemed like a worthy challenger in the Round of 64, and Shaka Smart's VCU has been serious for a couple of years now. If the Wolverines were on the ropes, this was certainly time for an underdog to step up and deliver the knockout blow.
Instead, Michigan showed why they were 20-1 by February, and that the Big Ten is still the conference to be reckoned with. The final score was 78-53, an absolute blowout if you've ever seen one. Michigan defended well. VCU also missed on some decent looks. The Rams were 3-of-16 from the 3-point line, which isn't going to cut it against any school worthy of respect.
That's what the Wolverines seem to be out for at the moment, anyway. The Big Ten has been talked-up all season, and definitely at the start of this tournament. But for Michigan itself, the narrative was of them being the Big Ten squad that could get got.
Disposing of South Dakota State and VCU is supposed to be like business as usual. Michigan dusted its shoulders off and told the doubters that picked them as early exits from the tournament to see them in Arlington next weekend.
Waiting on them is going to either be Kansas or North Carolina -- teams that are supposed to be in the Michigan weight class.
But I haven’t seen a group of players do it like Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary have in their two games. Trey Burke returned from a pedestrian performance against SDSU with 18 points and seven assists (seven turnovers, too, though).
McGary is the key adjustment. Michigan head coach John Beilein inserted the freshman into the starting lineup against SDSU and he played more than 30 minutes for just the second time in his college career in the win over VCU. McGary was exceptional leading the Wolverines with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Figures, though, right? Michigan always has been good with the freshmen.
Michigan just played like a team that has a shot to win it all.— ESPN (@espn) March 23, 2013
Freshman big man Mitch McGary led Michigan in a rout over VCU: thesco.re/10xyudJ— The Score (@theScore) March 23, 2013
NBA fans were pretty impressed by Michigan point guard Trey Burke earlier today. sbn.to/10xvgad— SBNation NBA (@SBNationNBA) March 23, 2013
Well good thing I didn't convince POTUS to pick VCU over Michigan. He didn't need my help to bruise the bracket. Michigan was FF good.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 23, 2013
Michigan has reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994. The Wolverines are 10-1 all-time in the Sweet 16.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 23, 2013
Michigan basketball’s assistant coaches will get a $3,000 bonus for today’s win. $5,000 if they make it to Elite Eight.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 23, 2013