After knocking off Florida State on Sunday, Michigan advanced to its fourth Elite Eight in the last eight tournaments and enters Tuesday with a shot at its third Four Final in as many years. However, to accomplish that feat, the Wolverines will have to make it past a red hot UCLA squad that’s won four straight.
Let’s take a look at the slate.
Game of the Day:
-No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 11 UCLA Bruins
- Time/TV: 9:57PM ET (TBS)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan by 5
Just over two weeks ago, Michigan was arguaby sitting at its lowest point of the season. The Wolverines had just learned star guard Isaiah Livers would be sidelined with injury and had fall to arch-rival Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament. It was the team’s third loss in five games and left many fans worried about Michigan’s postseason hopes.
But ever since then, things have gone splendidly.
Michigan opened up NCAA Tournament play with an easy win over Texas Southern and followed that up with marquee wins over LSU and Florida State. And the win over the Seminoles was particularly impressive, coming by a 76-58 margin. It sets Michigan up for a showdown with UCLA on Tuesday night with a Final Four on the line.
On the other side, UCLA enters this game with little to lose. The Bruins were a “First Four” team in this year’s NCAA Tournament and nobody expected them to make it this far. UCLA needed some lucky breaks to even beat Michigan State in the First Four back on March 18th and barely survived against Alabama on Sunday night. In between that, UCLA scored wins against BYU and Abilene Christian.
The Bruins deserve a lot of credit for winning four straight and doing it against some quality opponents. However, it’s hard to say UCLA is on the same level as the teams left in the field. While every other team is in the top six on KenPom, the Bruins are 16th and entered the NCAA Tournament at 45th overall. The team got hot at the right time. We’ll see if it can carry that over against Michigan on Tuesday night.
The player to watch for Michigan on Sunday is Dickinson. Not only because he’s the team’s best player, but also because of his matchup. The Wolverine big man should have an advantage down low. He’ll face off against Cody Riley, who’s just 6-foot-9. UCLA will also likely cheat against Dickinson as well, so how he responds will be key. If Dickinson can find open shooters outside and catch Franz Wagner on some off ball motion, there should be some opportunities.
Slowing down Johnny Juzang will also be a top priority for Michigan. The sophomore guard has been fantastic for the Bruins in this NCAA run. He’s not an elite shooter, but avoids turnovers and makes smart plays. Tyger Campbell is also a player to watch. Mike Smith will have his hands full with him.
All told, expect UCLA to try and dedicate a lot of energy to getting open threes with Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez and for Michigan to try and force it inside. We’ll see how the Wolverines perform against the pressure.
- Pick Against The Spread: UCLA