(8) Michigan vs. (9) Tennessee
After limping to a 1-6 start in Big Ten play (and 11-9 overall) the Michigan Wolverines bounced back behind the strong backcourt play of Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Jr. Morris leads the team in scoring (15.2 points per game), steals (1.0) and assists (6.8; 5th nationally). Hardaway, whose father was a five time NBA All-Star, has blossomed in the second half of his freshman campaign, scoring in double figures in each of the last 14 games and averaging 17.8 points in that same span. Coach John Beilien’s team has won three of its last four games heading into the tournament, but lives and dies with the three-point shot, making eight shots from distance each night (32nd in the country). If the Wolverines can knock down shots, they have a chance to play spoiler but the inexperience on this team has been on display through its inconsistency.
It’s been a challenging year for the Tennessee Volunteers and head coach Bruce Pearl, but there’s no one for them to blame but themselves. The misleading of NCAA investigators served as a huge distraction that should have never happened. With Pearl on and off the sideline the Volunteers have understandably had a lot of difficulty becoming consistent. However, their 8-7 record against the RPI Top 50 helped them avoid the NIT and be a part of the big dance. Shooting guard Scotty Hopson and versatile freshman forward Tobias Harris are future pros who make the Volunteers very difficult to defend. They’re not so good defensively at times themselves, though. To have tournament success this team is going to have to come together and get big efforts from their two stars. They ended the regular season very unconvincingly, losing six of their last nine.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Tennessee. Michigan’s lack of an interior presence will hurt them in their first round match-up as Tobias Harris will give the Wolverines fits and help the Volunteers into the second round.
HOOPSWORLD’s 2011 March Madness previews were written by senior NCAA analysts Yannis Koutroupis and Luke Byrnes. 2011 March Madness coverage is sponsored by the United States Marines.