The TSX Files: Michigan Expects to Dance

The Wolverines have experienced life in almost every quadrant of the NCAA Tournament picture throughout this season. Fortunately for Michigan, it ended up closing the campaign and the Big Ten Tournament in a fairly secure position on the "In" side of the ledger.

GETTING INSIDE
Despite loss to Ohio State, Michigan expects return to NCAAs
The Wolverines have experienced life in almost every quadrant of the NCAA Tournament picture throughout this season. Fortunately for Michigan, it ended up closing the campaign and the Big Ten Tournament in a fairly secure position on the "In" side of the ledger.

Outside of Ann Arbor, the expectations for this season included no talk about making the NCAA field. Michigan was picked to finish 10th or 11th in the Big Ten by just about every preseason publication. Not many folks had a foundation on which to argue that point.

When Michigan won at Clemson in late November, it wasn't much more than an eyebrow-raiser. It was considered a fluke, just a blip on the college basketball screen, since this was the Big Ten's youngest team, and one with no seniors.

After Michigan got off to a 1-6 start in the Big Ten, everything seemed to be going according to the national perception. Michigan was off the map as far as the NCAA Tournament discussions were concerned.

Then something changed. The Wolverines stunned a ranked Michigan State team, beating the Spartans in East Lansing. That ignited a run that included wins in eight of the final 11 Big Ten games. The body of work in the final month of the season was enough to get the Wolverines one of the most favorable positions on the ever-crowded NCAA bubble.

The win over Illinois in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament was a real resume-enhancer for the Wolverines, and likely moved them off the bubble, and into the NCAA field. The loss to top-ranked Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal in a very spirited and competitive game will do nothing to hurt the Wolverines, who seem destined for a No. 9 or No. 10 NCAA seed.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Michigan played the nation's 19th toughest schedule this season, with 20 games against teams in the top 100 of the RPI.
--Coming into this season, the Wolverines had to replace almost 70 percent of their scoring from last year.
--Michigan's NCAA Tournament resume was strengthened by eight wins over teams in the top 65 in the RPI, only one loss to teams outside the top 100, and wins over two eventual conference leaders -- Oakland in the Summit and Harvard in the Ivy League.
--Michigan won eight of its last 11 games in the regular season, losing only to No. 1 Ohio State, by two points on the road at Illinois, and on a last-second shot to Wisconsin.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: The Wolverines should return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out a year ago. When head coach John Beilein took Michigan to the 2008-09 NCAAs, that ended a 12-year drought for the program. In the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines beat Clemson before losing to Oklahoma in the second round. This time around, Michigan hopes its youthful exuberance, three-point shooting depth and very efficient ball security will carry it to success. Although fielding one of the youngest teams in the country, Michigan is one of the best at hanging on to the ball. The Wolverines rank fourth nationally with just 10 turnovers per game. Beilein brings considerable NCAA Tournament experience to the table, having taken teams from Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan to the Big Dance. He advanced to the Elite Eight with his 2004-05 West Virginia team, and made three total trips to the NCAA during his five years in Morgantown, and twice went to the NIT, winning that championship in 2007.

FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines made a big surge as the season came to a close and that had everything around the program trending in the right direction. But the best news might have been centered on the speculation over what the coming seasons might hold. Michigan's strong finish was ignited by freshman G Tim Hardaway Jr., sophomore PG Darius Morris, and freshman C/F Jordan Morgan. Michigan's investment in its young talent is paying dividends as 2010-11 moves toward its post-season chapter.

PLAYER NOTES
--Sophomore PG Darius Morris led the Wolverines with 17 points in their 60-55 win over Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
--Michigan junior F Zack Novak hit 4-of-8 from outside the arc in the Big Ten Tournament win over Illinois, marking the third game this season where Novak did not attempt a two-point field goal.
--Only junior F Zack Novak and junior G Stu Douglass have any NCAA Tournament experience for Michigan, both having played in the 2008-09 season as freshmen when the Wolverines advanced to the second round.

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