During the season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: In the first part of a four-part series, The Juice Online will take a look at each team in the Final Four, and make the case for that team winning the national championship. Today’s team is Syracuse’s foe on Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines.
This time last week, the Michigan Wolverines were a popular answer to the question, “Which team is going to lose and blow the All-Big Ten Final Four?” This week, they’re the last team standing. How did a team ranked #2 on New Year’s Day, with newly-minted First-Team All-American point guard Trey Burke at the helm, manage to come in that far under the radar?
The depth of the Big Ten conference and the team’s inexperience (they were the youngest team invited to the tournament this year) were major culprits in the late-season swoon that led to Michigan’s respectable-but-inauspicious 4-seed in the Big Dance.
That same hard road may also be responsible for the development of a team that looks even better than the highly-ranked squad that took the floor in December.
Freshman forward Mitch McGary has come into his own, averaging 18 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tournament as Burke’s new pick-and roll partner, while Tim Hardaway Jr. has evolved from a pure scorer to a more complete guard who racked up 5 assists against Florida.
The Michigan Wolverines are the latest proof that the finest steel is forged in the hottest fire. Now they’ve got the mettle to bring home the championship.