NCAA countdown: No. 7 Michigan
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Reaching the national championship game can serve as a double edged sword.
Michigan serves as the prime example of that.
It’s been a 180 in terms of the program’s recognition for John Beilein, who has noticed the Wolverines’ fan support and national prominence skyrocket by “300% more” than when he first arrived on campus in 2007.
The point is: Even though the team lost in the championship, the national fame has been rekindled.
Despite the lofty rankings entering 2013-14 (No. 7 in AP, No. 9 in Coaches polls), Michigan has yet to prove it can make repeated deep NCAA tournament runs and has a significant void to fill with the departure of national player of the year Trey Burke and backcourt partner Tim Hardaway Jr. (the tandem played over 33 minutes per game each).
The sophomore duo of Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III return after impressive freshman campaigns, but the 2012-13 season sets an almost impossibly high bar.
The Wolverines are without some of the key pieces that got them to the Final Four and will attempt to vie for Big Ten supremacy with one of the youngest rosters in the country — all but two players freshmen or sophomores.
Yet for a legendary grinder such as Beilein, whose first Final Four came in his 35th year of coaching, the target on Michigan’s back is based on hype and there’s still plenty to prove in Ann Arbor.
2012-13 in review: 31-8 overall (12-6 in the Big Ten), lost to Louisville in the Final Four.
Tournament projection: No. 2 seed, at-large bid.
Coach’s corner: “The harder thing is making us all recall how focused we were as we went down the stretch (in last year’s NCAA tournament run). The atmosphere and the environment changes pretty quickly when you’re able to make the run that we did. There was incredible focus. But do we have that again? That’s the most challenging thing.” — John Beilein, now in his seventh season, said of the boost in support at Michigan.
Star watch: McGary (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) had a coming-out … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 7 Michigan, click here.]