Michigan, Tennessee made key adjustments to reach Tourney's second weekend
Transformation is one of the key words for both Michigan and Tennessee as they reached the Sweet 16.
The top players for both teams have transformed themselves from last season. Michigan's Nik Stauskas added muscle to make him much more than a spot-up jump shooter. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes lost 10 pounds to become a more mobile and versatile big man.
But beyond individuals, both teams had to transform through the course of the season.
Michigan expected to have forward Mitch McGary, a breakout player during last year’s run to the national championship game, but back injuries knocked him out for the season before Big Ten play began. And Tennessee was one of the most inconsistent teams in the SEC before finally putting up results that reflected the Volunteers’ statistical production on both sides of the court.
“That's the great thing about a long season, anything can happen, trying to gel lineups and personnel, getting guys to play better and strengthen your bench,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “There are a lot of things that go on through the course of a season.”
And for Michigan and Tennessee, two teams that started the New Year in different places, those changes mean both are on the same footing for a regional final.
Time: 7 p.m. Eastern
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
Region: Midwest (Indianapolis)
Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Michigan 78-71
Braden Gall: Tennessee 65-62
Mitch Light: Michigan 77-69
Nathan Rush: Michigan 80-75
Michigan hasn’t been tested in two NCAA Tournament games against Wofford and Texas. The Wolverines have been most impressive from the 3-point line, shooting a combined 21 of 45 from long range in two games.
How Tennessee got here:
Tennessee closed the regular season playing its best basketball, a trait that has continued from the First Four into the Sweet 16. Jarnell Stokes is averaging 20.3 points and 15 rebounds since the start of the Tournament, giving Tennessee the most dominant big man of the first week.
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Key for Michigan to get to the Elite Eight: Lights out shooting
Michigan is a strong perimeter team with Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert. The Wolverines ranked sixth nationally by shooting 39.8 percent while taking a high volume of long-range shots. Beating Tennessee around the rim will be tough, so the outside shots will need to fall.
Key for Tennessee to get to the Elite Eight: Let Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon take over
Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have been solid since Michigan lost Mitch McGary early in the season with a back injury, but they’ll have to take on the top frontcourt duo in the Sweet 16 in Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. The pair is a force in the paint that will be tough to contain by Michigan’s smaller lineup.
Player to watch: Josh Richardson, Tennessee
Richardson has emerged to average 19.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-6 guard can also play standout defense, which will be key against Michigan’s guards.