The second weekend of action in the 2022 NCAA Tournament tipped off on Thursday and the Big Ten saw one of its two remaining teams in action with Michigan facing off against Villanova. Unfortunately, things wouldn’t end well for the Wolverines.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 2 Villanova Wildcats 63, No. 11 Michigan Wolverines 55
Heading into tip, thoughts were mixed on just how much of a shot Michigan would have against Villanova on Thursday night. Any objective evaluation suggested the Wildcats were a materially better team. However, the same had been true for Tennessee last week and Michigan found a way to pull off an upset then, so the team certainly had some shot to win. Villanova would also have the challenge of slowing down Hunter Dickinson, who seemed to be a clear matchup advantage for the Wolverines down low.
And that’s largely how things played out in the opening minutes. Michigan would pound the ball inside and play off Dickinson while Villanova would use its consistency and balanced approach to set up good looks. Michigan entered halftime with a mild deficit, but was in good position to make a run in the second half.
Unfortunately, the wheels came off in the second half. Villanova hit some big shots and Michigan couldn’t get its own looks to go down. And not even the difficult ones, as the Wolverines missed a number of gimmes around the bucket. Dickinson and Moussa Diabate would finish with a relatively pedestrian 22 combined points, thanks largely to those misses. The only reason Michigan even kept it close was because of Eli Brooks, who made some huge shots in the second half. The Wolverines would eventually fall by a 63-55 final score.
The loss ends Michigan’s season at 19-15 overall. It was a thoroughly bizarre campaign in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines swung wildly between elite and mediocre all season. The team entered the season with high expectations, initially fell flat, and then turned it into the program’s fifth straight Sweet 16 appearance in March. It’s not a route you’ll see often, but most Wolverine fans have to be satisfied with that finish.
Michigan’s focus will now shift to the offseason where the program figures to undergo substantial roster turnover. Eli Brooks has (finally) run out of eligibility, Hunter Dickinson and DeVante’ Jones look likely to leave for the next level, and freshmen starters Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan have some decisions to make as well. And that isn’t even to mention the natural attrition that’s associated with today’s world of college basketball. This Michigan team could look starkly different next season. It will be interesting to follow.