NCAA tourney preview: No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State
Few teams have as much mojo as Michigan, which has won 10 of its last 12 games. And the two losses? In overtime at Minnesota and on a miracle play at Northwestern. The Wolverines are coming off an emotion-charged Big Ten tourney title that defied all odds.
Michigan almost didn’t make it to Washington, D.C., for the event after its plane careened off the runway after an aborted takeoff. The team showed up hours before its first game on Thursday vs. Illinois, and proceeded to win four games in four days, knocking off the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds along the way.
This is a deadly team led by savvy senior point man Derrick Walton Jr., the MOP of the Big Ten tourney. And wing Zak Irvin is playing some of the best basketball of his career. Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson are sweet-shooting big men who are more finesse than muscle but are very productive. Add it all up, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Wolverines advance to the Sweet 16. In fact, they may make the deepest run of any Big Ten squad.
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State (Friday, Indianapolis, Midwest)
John Beilein NCAA record: 17-10, one NCAA runner-up (2013)
Last NCAA appearance: 2016, lost to Notre Dame in first round
Key player: Derrick Walton Jr. He does it all, as Walton is the only player in school annals with over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in his career. He leads the team with a 15.0 scoring average to go with 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Plus, Walton is a muscular leader who makes Michigan hum.
Key number: 48.3, Michigan’s field-goal percentage. That leads the Big Ten. This team has excellent ball movement, which typically results in good looks at the basket. Couple that with an array of good shooters, and you have a prolific shooting squad that is deadly from beyond the arc.
Know Oklahoma State: Things looked bleak early for the Cowboys, who lost their first six Big 12 games. But Okie State won 10 of 11 down the stretch before dropping its last three games. The Pokes are led by All-American guard Jawun Evans, who averaged 19.0 points. Other studs are Jeffrey Carroll and Phil Forte III. This is a club that can score … a lot, averaging 85.6 points. And it’s battle-tested, having played the second toughest schedule in the nation according to KenPom rankings.