The 2021 NCAA Tournament continued on Tuesday night with the second day of action for the Elite Eight. The day was highlighted by a matchup between Michigan and UCLA. The winner would move on to the Final Four.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 11 UCLA Bruins 51, No. 1 Michigan Wolverines 49
Despite entering this game as a sizable favorite, Michigan found itself on its heels early. The team couldn’t seem to find its shooting stroke from the line or outside the arc, which gradually found its way to all part of Michigan’s offense. All told, Michigan would finish with a brutually inefficient 0.83 points per possession against a UCLA team that ranks just 45th nationally in defensive efficiency.
But despite these offensive struggles, Michigan found itself in the game in the closing minutes. Chaundee Brown got some key buckets and Hunter Dickinson put up a notable second half performance. The Wolverines then got a handful of opportunities in the closing seconds to win outright. Unfortunately, Franz Wagner missed a wide open three, Eli Brooks couldn’t score on the second attempt, and nobody else was able to make a play either. As a result, Michigan fell by a 51-49 margin, putting an end to its season.
This is going to be a game that sits with Michigan and its fan base for quite some time. Not only because of the stakes (a Final Four), but also because things were so winnable. While you can always go back and pick a play out here or there in a close game that could have changed things, there are a plethora of options here. If Michigan had shot even moderately better from the line (6-of-11) or outside (3-of-11), this is a different story. And the 14 turnovers against a team that’s dreadfully awful at forcing them (252nd nationally) will sting.
With all that said, Michigan still had a remarkable season. The Wolverines entered the year as a middling Big Ten team and found a way to win the Big Ten title and make it within a bucket of the Final Four. Tuesday was a missed opportunity, but most programs would still kill for the season the Wolverines just had. And with a vaunted incoming recruiting class, Wolverine fans will hope to get another shot at this next year.