Michigan’s magic finds it’s way to San Antonio


Adrian Broaddus

Michigan head coach John Beilein speaks to the media during a press conference at the Final Four in San Antonio.

Jeremy Carranco, Sports Editor

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Jordan Poole’s 30-foot buzzer-beater against Houston in the second round may have happened by chance, but Michigan’s trip to San Antonio is anything but luck.

The West Regional champion Wolverines will face Cinderella and South Regional champ Loyola Chicago on Saturday in the national semifinals at the Alamodome with an opportunity to play for their second national title in school history (1989) on Monday.

Michigan’s 13-game winning streak is the nation’s second longest behind the Ramblers (14).

“We’re blessed to be here and going to have one more day of prep for a tremendous, not good, Loyola team,” said Michigan head coach John Beilein. “We’re going to be as ready as we can be.”

While distractions surround the Wolverines’ contest against the Ramblers and their Sister Jean, Beilein is preparing his team for a talented Loyola Chicago roster.

”They (Loyola Chicago) could have very easily, if they were playing a power conference, been a six, seven, five or four seed and might have won one of those conferences, they’re so good,” Beilein said. “Sister Jean, that’s another story. I had a priest, not even my own parish, stop mass on Tuesday saying ‘they have Sister Jean, you have everybody praying for you.’”

Michigan entered the NCAA Tournament as arguably the hottest team in the country with wins over two top-10 teams, in-state rival Michigan State and Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament.

“We just have to keep the chemistry together,” said freshman forward Isaiah Livers. “I think we really started to trust each other and the coaching staff started to trust us a lot more, then we realized we actually had a good chance.”

As a freshman, Livers has been a helping hand to a good Wolverine defense, averaging close to three boards a game in the NCAA Tournament alongside sophomore Chris Matthews. In the Big Dance, Matthews is leading his team with 16.5 points and 7.3 boards per game.

The Wolverines are eighth in the nation is scoring defense, allowing just 63.1 points per game but will face a taste of their own strength when they meet a Ramblers team who sits at the five spot (62.4) in the same category.

“They’re (Loyola Chicago) solid defensively and don’t make a lot of mistakes,” said junior forward Moritz Wagner. “They don’t turn it over a lot, so it’s going to be a tough match-up.”

Saturday’s game will be the fourth meeting between the Ramblers and Wolverines all-time and first since 1969 when Loyola won in a shootout 112-100.

With two defensive minded teams, it is unlikely fans will see a similar score come Monday night.

In fact, Michigan’s offense has been lackluster at best, scoring an average of just 61 points outside of their 99-point outburst against Florida State in the Elite Eight.

Taking bad shots has contributed to the poor offense for the Wolverines. In fact, 43.2 percent of Michigan’s shots from the floor have come from 3-point territory, making just 36.6 percent of those attempts and 33.7 percent in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the struggles on offense, Loyola Chicago, who has also lived the slogan “March Madness” with two buzzer beaters of their own, will not overestimate the Wolverines ability to score at any time on Saturday.

“They’ve (Michigan) got a lot of threats,” said Loyola-Chicago guard Marques Towns. “We’ve got a couple of different coverages that we’re going to have to have to run that we haven’t really had to.”

However, Michigan’s run didn’t start with their opening win over No. 14 seed Montana, it started in the Big Ten tournament. The last two Big Ten tourneys have been centered around the Wolverines with two runs that have propelled the team to back-to-back titles and trips to the Big Dance.

Last season the Wolverines grabbed the nation’s attention by winning the Big Ten Tournament after a scare before leaving for Washington D.C. The team’s plane was leaving the tarmac in Ann Arbor when high winds forced the plane to slide off the runway. On the bubble at the time, the team eventually won the tournament (Big Ten) and reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed.

This season, Michigan has caught the nation’s attention again without a near tragic accident.

In making it to San Antonio, the Wolverines have reached the Final Four for the first time since 2013 and second time since 1993, eclipsing the school record with 32 wins.

With a National championship in sight, Michigan’s magical run will be complete barring two more victories and will become first Big Ten team to win it all since Michigan State in 2000.

“It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Michigan senior Duncan Robinson. “A lot of people have stepped onto the floor and done a lot of great things.”

The Wolverines are currently a 5.5 favorite and will look to continue their dream quest when they meet the Ramblers at 6:09 p.m. MT tomorrow in the Final Four.