The Michigan men’s basketball team opens the NCAA Tournament at 9:50 p.m. Thursday as the No. 3 seed in the West Region, against No. 14 Montana. Many Michigan fans are unhappy that the Wolverines open in Wichita, Kan., as opposed to Detroit.
Former Michigan and NFL running back Chris Howard examines why Michigan should be playing in Detroit, and Land of 10 reporter Rachel Lenzi explains why it’s a good thing that Michigan is in Kansas.
Q: SHOULD THE MICHIGAN BASKETBALL TEAM HAVE OPENED THE NCAA TOURNAMENT IN DETROIT?
RACHEL LENZI: NO
Opening the NCAA Tournament on the road is a positive for the Michigan men’s basketball team. For the sake of a strong tournament run, starting in Wichita is something Michigan can work to its advantage.
It really shouldn’t matter where the Wolverines open the NCAA Tournament, whether it’s down the road or halfway across the country. However, there’s a benefit to the Wolverines playing the first round in Wichita, Kan., as opposed to downtown Detroit: They avoid a bracket with a pair of college basketball blue bloods.
If Michigan had earned a higher seed than Michigan State, it likely would have been sent to Detroit and put in the Midwest Region, which includes Kansas, Duke and Auburn. Good, and competitive, company. Some have likened the region to the World Cup’s Group of Death — one that includes no easy matchups.
That isn’t to say things will be easy in Wichita. NCAA Tournament rarely are. But geography — as unusual as it may seem in this instance — has made Michigan’s tournament road a little easier.
By opening in Wichita, the Wolverines are the West Region’s No. 3 seed, and they have a formidable path to return to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines open at 9:50 p.m. ET Thursday against No. 14 Montana. The winner faces No. 11 seed San Diego State or No. 6 Houston on Saturday in a second-round game.
It would have been convenient to open the tournament at home, as the Wolverines did in 2013 at Auburn Hills, Mich. Players wouldn’t have to deal with travel fatigue while juggling academic responsibilities and the rigors of competing for a national championship.
The Wolverines will miss the comforts of being about 45 minutes from Ann Arbor, but they are 7-1 in neutral-site games this season. Winning away from home means more, especially at this time of year.
A history lesson comes with this trip to Kansas. The Wolverines opened the 1994 NCAA Tournament in Wichita. That team made the most of its trip to the heartland, defeating Pepperdine and Texas at the Kansas Coliseum. Michigan went on to beat Maryland in the Sweet 16 and lost to eventual national champion Arkansas in the Elite Eight.
This some incentive if the Wolverines advance this weekend: a trip to Los Angeles, site of the West Regional. It’s not Detroit, but people might not complain as much about Southern California.