Michigan won't be playing inside the friendly confines of Crisler Center in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament but the Wolverines (26-7, 12-6 B1G) will have the lion's share of fan support as they grab the No. 4 seed in the South Region to take on the No. 13 seed South Dakota State (25-9, 13-3 Summit) Thursday at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.).
The road didn't treat Michigan very well throughout the 2012-13 season finishing 5-5, but the Wolverines did compile a 4-1 record in neutral site games. Regardless, John Beilein is pleased to be making the short trip to Oakland County to kick off tournament play.
"It's great that we're local," said Beilein. "We've got so many great fans in this area. Our students can travel so that is really good. But if they would have said,' hey you're going to San Jose' I would be just as excited right now."
The Jack Rabbits of South Dakota State present a challenge for Michigan with senior point guard and 2013 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of The Year Finalist, Nate Wolters, and his 22.5-point per game average. At 6-4, Wolters has a size advantage on Wolverines sophomore point guard Trey Burke, a fellow Cousy Award finalist, and is a dead eye shooter from the outside, knocking down nearly 42 percent of his tries from three-point land and has a 53-point outburst on his resume' from a February 8th win over IPFW.
"I've seen just a couple of games -- I've heard great things about him," said Beilein. "But I know very little right now."
South Dakota State was blown out in a non-conference match-up with Minnesota in Minneapolis on December 4th, losing 88-64 but beat 16th ranked New Mexico (No. 3 seed in West Region) 70-65 back on December 22nd.
Michigan's five freshmen are in line to receive their first taste of the NCAA tournament, meanwhile the Jack Rabbits bolster a senior laden crew that brings a lot of experience and plenty of efficiency.
"Just took a quick glance at the roster -- I see seniors, I see a team that goes to the foul line and shoots 75 percent," said Beilein. "I see a great point guard, and four guys averaging double figures. They went to New Mexico and won this year so that should say a lot about who they are and we're going to have to play great basketball."
Should Michigan get the better of South Dakota State Thursday, the Wolverines would advance to play the winner of Virginia Commonwealth (No. 5 seed) and Akron (No. 12 seed) on Saturday in Auburn Hills.
The No. 1 seed in the South Region is Kansas, followed by Georgetown (No. 2), and Florida (No. 3). Minnesota is the only other Big Ten team in the region as they land the No. 6 seed and battle UCLA (No. 11 seed).
U-M stays local, will battle South Dakota St.
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