In 2013, Michigan basketball came one win shy of winning its second national championship, and its first since 1989. Now, Michigan has the chance to do what it couldn’t five years ago, as the Wolverines are two wins away from winning the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan is set to take on Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four on Saturday, and the winner of that game will move on to the national championship game to play the winner of Villanova and Kansas on Monday. While Michigan has stars like Moe Wagner and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, it will need its role players to step up and be difference-makers in order to hoist the championship trophy on Monday night.
In an article by USA Today Sports’ Scott Gleeson on Tuesday, Gleeson named two players from each Final Four team that he believed could be X-factors for their respective teams. For Michigan, Gleeson chose Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson as the team’s two “difference-makers” for the Final Four.
For Poole — who hit one of the most memorable shots of the NCAA Tournament thus far — Gleeson says that Michigan coach John Beilein could use the freshman guard as a “secret weapon” for the Wolverines, similarly how Duke used Grayson Allen in its 2015 championship run.
“You might remember this guy from the highlight-reel, buzzer-beater of this NCAA tournament — a 30-foot dagger to sink Houston in the second round. But the 6-4 freshman has become a secret weapon of sorts for coach John Beilein. Remember how Mike Krzyzewski used seldom-used freshman Grayson Allen in Duke’s 2015 title run – including 16 points from him in the championship game? Poole offers a similar type of capability to break out.”
As far as Robinson, Gleeson believes that the senior’s experience and “clutch gene” will make a difference for the Wolverines.
“The 6-8 senior drained a key three-pointer in the Wolverines’ 58-54 victory over Florida State, so [he] has a clutch gene that will bode well for Michigan’s title pursuit. Robinson started his career at the Division III level at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., so his college journey has given him a nice edge throughout Michigan’s 13-game winning streak.”
This season, Poole is averaging 6 points and 1.4 rebounds in roughly 12 minutes per game. In addition, he is shooting 43.6 percent from the field. In 25.9 minutes per game, Robinson is averaging 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from 3-point range.
Michigan and Loyola will tip off at 6:09 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The game will be on TBS.