By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Palace of Auburn Hills (24,276) -- Auburn Hills,
Michigan. Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: SDSU 0-1, Michigan 43-22.
Series Record: Michigan leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Outstanding guard play will be on display in the NCAA Tournament
South Region second-round matchup between the fourth-seeded Michigan
Wolverines and the 13th-seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits, as the two
teams get together at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday night.
The winner will advance to the third round on Saturday to play the victor in
the clash between No. 5 seed VCU and No. 12 seed Akron.
After making the field of 68 for the first time last season, SDSU followed
that up with another strong campaign by going 25-9 overall and 13-3 in the
Summit League, and it backed up its No. 1 seed in the recently-concluded
conference tournament by claiming a 73-67 victory over North Dakota State in
the championship game. The Jackrabbits fought hard in last year's NCAA
Tournament as a No. 14 seed against No. 3 seed Baylor in the second round, but
ultimately fell to the Bears in a 68-60 final.
Michigan showed flashes of brilliance this season, even earning the No. 1
ranking in the AP poll in late January, but after a treacherous run through
the Big Ten Conference, it ended with a 26-7 overall record, which included a
12-6 league ledger. The Wolverines were bounced from the Big Ten Tournament
early after losing to a very good Wisconsin team in the quarterfinals, 68-59.
They have qualified for 24 NCAA Tournaments in their history, and they won the
national championship in 1989. This year's accomplishment marks the first time
they've qualified for three straight NCAA Tournaments since 1994-96.
Michigan holds a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series with SDSU, but the
latest matchup occurred back in 1988.
The Jackrabbits are led by superstar guard Nate Wolters, who not only won the
Summit League Player of the Year but is one of the more revered players in
NCAA History. With averages of 22.7 ppg, 5.8 apg, and 5.6 rpg, he is about to
become the first player in Division I history to record at least 20 points,
five assists, and five rebounds per game in two separate seasons since assists
became and official statistic in the early 1980s. South Dakota State is far
from a one-man show however, as Jordan Dykstra (12.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Tony
Fiegen (10.1 ppg) and Chad White (10.0 ppg) are also consistent performers. As
a team, the Jackrabbits net 73.9 ppg while draining 47 percent from the field
and nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, and it plays solid defense too in
limiting the opposition to 65.6 ppg.
The Wolverines' answer to Wolters is Trey Burke, who was named the Big Ten
Player of the Year. He has been extremely efficient en route to 19.2 ppg,
boasting strong percentages from the field (.479), 3-point range (.401) and
the foul line (.793), and he is also one of the nation's top floor generals
with 222 assists (6.7 pg) compared to just 67 turnovers. Playing Robin to
Burke's Batman is Tim Hardaway, Jr., who nets 14.8 ppg while grabbing 4.7 rpg
for good measure. Nik Stauskas is lethal from 3-point range, connecting on 71-
of-158 from beyond the arc (.449), while Glenn Robinson III brings 10.7 ppg
and 5.4 rpg to the mix, while making more than 55 percent of his field goal
attempts. The Maize and Blue rose to the top of one of the best conferences in
the nation by playing exceptionally well at both ends of the floor, scoring
75.2 ppg while yielding just 62.9 ppg.
With Wolters at the helm, SDSU has Cinderella written all over it, but the
team received a tough second-round draw with a Michigan squad that is even
more athletic out on the perimeter. The Wolverines certainly haven't been
playing as well as they had hoped in recent weeks, meaning an upset could be
in the cards, but expect Burke and company to prevail nonetheless.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 77, South Dakota State 70