Michigan is going to the NCAA Tournament for the 27th time in its history, and it’s doing so in style after beating Wisconsin, 71-56, Sunday to win the Big Ten Tournament title.
The Wolverines (24-11) are seeded No. 7 in the Midwest Region and will open the tournament on Friday in Indianapolis against No. 10 seed Oklahoma State (20-12). Game time is at 12:15 p.m. ET.
Here are five things to know about Michigan’s NCAA Tournament bid:
Hot, hot, hot
The Wolverines are playing as well as anyone in the country right now. They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games with the two losses coming in overtime (at Minnesota) and on a last-second Hail Mary (at Northwestern). Senior point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. was named the Big Ten Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 20.5 points and 4.8 rebounds, producing 25 assists against just 8 turnovers, making 7 steals and playing all but 12 of a possible 165 minutes in the four games.
— Big Ten Men's Hoops (@B1GMBBall) March 12, 2017
And, oh yeah, remember back in late January/early February when Zak Irvin managed 13 points in a four-game stretch? Irvin is playing his best ball of the season at the right time. He averaged nearly 15 points in this tournament while shooting 56.8 percent from the field. It was his driving basket late against Purdue that sent that quarterfinal game into overtime, where Michigan won, 74-70.
Smart decision by Irvin. Don't settle. Go to bucket.
— Kevin Goheen (@CincyGoGo) March 10, 2017
NCAA selection committee chair Mark Hollis said during a national teleconference with reporters Sunday night that the outcome of the Big Ten Tournament championship game did matter in the bracket. The winner got a 7-seed, the loser an 8-seed.
“They were not at the 7 this morning,” Hollis said. “That game basically created a switch between Wisconsin and Michigan from the 7 and 8 lines.”
Wisconsin got the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup in Buffalo against Virginia Tech, a team that beat Michigan, 73-70, in Ann Arbor during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 30. Get through that game and defending national champion Villanova likely awaits.
This is just the second time Michigan has been a No. 7 seed. The other was in 1996, when it lost to No. 10-seed Texas, 80-76, in the first round.
The NCAA might want to consider moving the games in Indianapolis from Bankers Life Fieldhouse to Lucas Oil Stadium. The pod in Indy is filled with teams that have rabid fan bases that will travel. Dayton, Louisville and Kentucky are short drives away from always-sold-out arenas. Wichita State and Oklahoma State fans don’t exactly snooze on their teams. Northern Kentucky University, making its NCAA Tournament debut in its first season of eligibility into the field, is located across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, just two hours away.
Now add in Michigan.
— Bankers Life Fldhs (@TheFieldhouse) March 13, 2017
While Indianapolis has hosted Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament on a multitude of occasions, this will be just the second time the Wolverines have played there in an NCAA Tournament. Michigan went to the Elite Eight as a No. 2 seed in 2014 before losing to eventual national runner-up Kentucky, 75-72. Michigan beat Tennessee, 73-71, in that Sweet 16.
Don’t go quietly
Michigan has won at least one game in six of its last seven NCAA Tournament appearances, including last year when the Wolverines beat Tulsa in the First Four in Dayton. The lone exception in that streak came in 2012 when the No. 4 Wolverines were knocked off in their first game against No. 13-seed Ohio, 65-60.
And when Michigan has lost games, it hasn’t lost them by wide margins. Its 73-63 loss to Oklahoma in a second-round game in 2009 is the Wolverines’ only double-digit loss in 10 tournament appearances going back to 1992. Michigan has had eight tournament wins by 10 or more points in that time.
Long time, no see
Michigan is 5-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament against current members of the Big 12, including a win in its only previous meeting with Oklahoma State.
That game came in a Sweet 16 match-up in Lexington, Ky., in 1992 when the Fab Five of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were freshmen. Michigan was the No. 6 seed in Southeast Region and beat No. 2 Oklahoma State, 75-72.
Michigan is 2-1 all-time against the Cowboys. The programs first played in 1982, a 78-70 win for Oklahoma State. The last time they played was in 1997 when Michigan won 75-65 in the second round of the NIT. That win was later vacated by Michigan as part of NCAA sanctions.