Michigan doesn’t need to make any mea culpas for its path to the Final Four, and it won’t be a fluke if the Wolverines win two more games and claim the second National Championship in school history. Then maybe coach John Beilein will start getting the credit nationally that people in Ann Arbor know he deserves.
That’s the opinion of Turner Sports NCAA analyst Brendan Haywood.
“I really like what they do from an offensive-defensive standpoint, and I like the fact that Michigan is versatile,” Haywood told Land of 10. “They can go out there and say ‘Hey, we can win a game in the 80s or we can win a game in the 60s.’ Not a lot of teams have that type of versatility.”
Haywood will be at the Alamodome in San Antonio as part of TBS’ exclusive coverage of the Final Four on Saturday and the National Championship on Monday night. Michigan (32-7) faces Loyola-Chicago (32-5), the Cinderella-story of the tournament, at 6:09 ET on Saturday in the first semifinal. Villanova (34-4) and Kansas (31-7) play in the second semifinal, which is scheduled to tip-off at 8:49 p.m. The winners meet Monday night at 9:20 p.m. ET.
Haywood says there’s no reason this Michigan team can’t hang a banner in the Crisler Center rafters alongside the 1989 team.
WOLVERINES HOLD ON!
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 25, 2018
“I also like the fact that they run. They look for their fast-break opportunities but just because they’re a fast-break team doesn’t mean they’re not patient in the half-court,” Haywood said. “I really love their poise and their patience. When they don’t have the initial fast-break, they’re excellent at pulling it out, running their sets, their screen replace game is excellent.
“Moe Wagner gives them a movable chess piece. He’s a big man that’s hard to guard because he can put it on the floor, shoot 3s and post up. They surround him with multiple guys that can shoot the ball and score, so I really like what Michigan does and I think that Michigan has a very solid chance to win this tournament no matter who they play.”
Haywood said he likes Michigan to beat Loyola, predicting a final score of 75-68.
“Beilein is known for having great offensive teams — and this team is a very good offensive team — but this is one of his better teams defensively. Normally he’s not known for that,” Haywood said. “Defensively I think they’ll be able to switch a lot of screen-and-rolls, do a lot of things defensively that other teams haven’t been able to do against Loyola. And, oh, by the way, Michigan can get incredibly hot from [3-point territory].
“The Fighting Sister Jeans have done an excellent job this season but I think their run comes to an end against Michigan.”
Michigan has made 47 percent of its field goals this season and 36.6 percent of its 3-point attempts, but has topped those marks in just one of its four NCAA Tournament games. That was against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, a 99-72 blowout victory for the Wolverines. They made 61.9 percent from the field against the Aggies, including 14 of 24 from behind the 3-point line. They’ve only made 17 3-point shots in their other three wins against Montana, Houston and Florida State.
Of course, freshman Jordan Poole hit the biggest shot of the tournament for Michigan when he swished a trey as time expired to beat Houston 64-63 in the second round in Wichita, Kan.
MARCH IS THE GREATEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN EVER. pic.twitter.com/OHjBa375Xg
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2018
“I believe in the law of averages,” Haywood said. “Except for the game against Texas A&M, Michigan has not really shot the ball well in this tournament. I think they’re due for another one of those games like they had against Texas A&M where they played like the Michigan team that we saw down the stretch at the end of the season and throughout the Big Ten Tournament where they just shoot lights out.”
Should Michigan beat Loyola and play for the title, Haywood said he likes its chances against Kansas better than Villanova although Michigan can beat either team.
Win a national title and maybe Beilein’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as some of college basketball’s top coaches. Two more wins would give Beilein 800 victories in his 40 seasons as a college coach.
“I think he gets overlooked,” Haywood said. “When they start talking about great basketball coaches they talk about Coach K, Roy Williams, even guys who haven’t won championships — and I know this is the wrong year to say it —but guys like Tony Bennett. Those things get brought up. Jay Wright gets brought up.
“I think that Beilein is one of those guys that routinely gets overlooked, but hey, he has an opportunity to change all that and make some noise in this tournament and put his name up there with the elite coaches.”