INDIANAPOLIS – Glenn Robinson III didn’t see the NCAA Tournament brackets come out Sunday night but it didn’t take him long to react to the news. Michigan was heading to Indianapolis for its first-round game.
“I bought tickets in advance as soon as they came out,” Robinson said early Friday afternoon from the practice gym his current team, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, have inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Down the hall, in the main arena, Michigan and Oklahoma State had already tipped off.
“I’m looking forward to going out there. The college game is a different atmosphere. March Madness is a different atmosphere. Fans are going crazy, you’ve got the fight songs, you’ve got people who travel from all over to watch these games. That brings back memories of us making that tournament run to the national championship.”
Robinson, a member of the 2013 national finalist and 2014 Elite Eight teams, got finished with practice in plenty of time to watch the Wolverines pull out a 92-91 win and advance to the second round Sunday against Louisville. That’s the same Louisville program that beat Robinson and Michigan, 82-76, in Atlanta for the NCAA title four years ago.
— Glenn Robinson III (@GRIII) March 17, 2017
Robinson sees similarities in this year’s Michigan team and the two he played on until he left for the NBA.
“This team, they know their roles and they do a great job of filling them,” Robinson said. “Michigan always does a good job of playing team basketball.”
Robinson’s sophomore season with Michigan was the freshman season for current seniors Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin. Walton scored 26 points and had 11 assists and 5 rebounds in the win against Oklahoma State, while Irvin scored 16 points. The pair combined to make 13 of the 24 shots they took, including 10 of 15 3-pointers.
“I didn’t get a chance to see them (Thursday) when they had a couple of hours off but I think they’re definitely two players who’ve worked hard,” Robinson said. “They were in the gym all night when I was there. We always got in the gym and they’ve worked themselves into this position. I’m happy for them and hopefully they continue to win and lead their team.”
Minnesota drafted Robinson in the second round (No. 40 overall) in 2014 but waived him in March 2015. Philadelphia picked him up and he played 10 games with the Sixers the rest of the season. Robinson signed with the Pacers prior to the 2015-16 season and he’s playing a career-high 21.1 minutes, averaging 6.2 points and shooting 47.7 percent from the field this season.
He was the surprise winner of the NBA’s slam dunk contest at this year’s All-Star game weekend.
“It kind of gave me a little celebrity status,” Robinson said. “Now when I go places people know me, a lot of people watch the dunk contest. It was pretty cool to win it because during the All-Star game that’s what people watch; they watch the dunk contest.”
The Pacers are 35-33 this season, good for the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Glenn was kind of my big brother when he was here,” Irvin said this week. “For me, I was a freshman and he taught me a lot, on and off the court, really. He was a mentor while he was here. I’m glad he’s having the success that he is. I wish him nothing but the best.”
Walton had similar thoughts on Robinson.
“I learned so much from him. It’s hard to put it into one sentence. But he taught me how to work. In a sense, to work like a professional and how you handle things and how you carry yourself.”
Robinson won’t get a chance to see Michigan play Louisville on Sunday. He and the Pacers play at Toronto that evening. He’ll have to catch up with them from afar, just as he’s been doing as much as the NBA schedule allows him.
“They’re on a roll right now,” Robinson said, “and hopefully they continue to do that and not let the season get cut short.”