By the sights and sounds of some people around this state, you would think Michigan basketball is ‘back.’ After wins over South Dakota State and VCU, the Wolverines are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994. But something is still missing.
Michigan has defeated four tournament teams away from Ann Arbor this season, and it isn’t a very good list of teams:
- Vs. Pittsburgh in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament at Madison Square Garden, 67-62. Pittsburgh was an eight seed and defeated in the second round by #9 Wichita State.
- Vs. Kansas State in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament at MSG, 71-57. Kansas St. played better as the season went on, but as a #4 seed lost to #13 La Salle in the second round.
- At then #9 Minnesota, 83-75. This was a part of Minnesota’s streak of losing eight of 11 games to enter the tournament as an #11 seed. Beat an equally as bad UCLA team before falling to #3 Florida 78-64.
- At Illinois, 74-60. Also a part of a stretch where eight of 11 games were losses for the Illini. Somehow still received a #7 seed and defeated #10 Colorado before losing to #2 Miami 63-59.
That’s it. Those are the quality away from home victories that the Wolverines have. Yes, Michigan took care of business at home going 17-1 with the only loss being against Indiana. But they played awful in nearly every away game of value, especially against the big three of the Big Ten.
So in my eyes, this team isn’t ‘back’ they are still a win away from this season being even close to a success. It will not be easy for the Wolverines against a team like Kansas. I have been down on them all season, but center Jeff Withey is one of the best players in college basketball and freshman guard Ben McLemore is also in that discussion.
Even though they play different positions, the matchup of Withey and Trey Burke will be important in this game. Will Burke still be able to penetrate and drive the lane or will Withey be able to slow him down and keep him and the other slashing guards out of the lane? This will be a big part in determining who comes out on top to face the winner of Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast University, and the wicked step-mother, Florida.
So what do you think fans, is a number one ranking in the country earlier in the year and a Sweet 16 appearance enough to consider this season a success? Or does Michigan basketball still have more to prove this year, needing at least a win over Kansas to legitimize this year with high expectations? Feel free to let us know at DetroitSportsBloggers.com or on Facebook and Twitter.
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