James Hawkins, Matt Charboneau, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News offer their predictions for how far Michigan will go in the NCAA Tournament.
James Hawkins: Michigan isn’t just a feel-good story heading into the NCAA Tournament this time around. The Wolverines have a legitimate defense and are playing as well as any team in the nation, and anything less than a return trip to the Sweet 16 would seem like a disappointment. Michigan will be able to get there before No. 2 seed North Carolina stops it short of the Elite Eight in a rematch of this season’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which the Tar Heels won decisively.
Matt Charboneau: There might not be a team on a better run right now than the Wolverines, and a quick glance at the West Region shows there’s a reasonable path to the Final Four. Michigan will get out of the first weekend with wins over Montana and likely Houston before heading to the regionals in Los Angeles. Expect the Wolverines to knock off North Carolina in the Sweet 16 and take out Ohio State in a rematch in the regional final to reach the Final Four. The run ends there with a national semifinal loss to South Regional champion Arizona.
John Niyo: Michigan shouldn’t have too much trouble with Montana in the first round, though the 11-day layoff won’t help. With Houston, they may have a problem, assuming the Cougars stay hot and the seeds hold serve. But John Beilein’s teams are a difficult scout on short notice, and these Wolverines have found another gear. They just might not have enough talent to beat North Carolina in a rematch in Los Angeles in the Sweet 16.
Bob Wojnowski: The Wolverines will shoot their way past Montana, and struggle but survive against a talented, streaky Houston team. Then in a rematch of an early-season game they lost, they’ll show how far they’ve climbed and beat North Carolina to reach the Elite Eight. There, they’ll run into one of the hottest teams in the country in Gonzaga, which enters the Tournament on a 14-game winning streak. The run will end there, with the Bulldogs prevailing 80-75.