Michigan knows all about the Final Four. The Wolverines are not as familiar with the First Four.
The second-seeded Wolverines draw No. 11 Tennessee in Friday’s Midwest regional semifinal in Indianapolis (7:15 p.m. ET) at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the winner faces eight-seeded Kentucky or Louisville, the No. 4 seed and defending national champion, in Sunday’s final.
“They are extremely talented. All of their wings are talented and their bigs have a lot of length,” Michigan guard Nik Stauskas said Thursday. “It’s surprising to see them as an 11 seed. They definitely deserve to be here. They have played really well.”
Tennessee was 11-7 in the Southeastern Conference and finished fourth in the league behind two of the teams who reached the Sweet 16 — Kentucky and Florida. The Volunteers, as one of the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament, went to the First Four in Dayton and beat Iowa 78-65 in overtime. Tennessee barged into the Sweet 16 with a 19-point win over Massachusetts and bounced Mercer 83-63.
“It’s a very good accomplishment for us to be where we are as such a low seed in the NCAA Tournament,” said Jarnell Stokes, a junior forward who has double-double performances in all three tournament games. “We’ve taken it game by game and we realize a team like Mercer can beat Duke, so anything can happen in these games.”
Stokes, who had 17 points and 18 rebounds against Mercer and 26-14 against UMass, and Tennessee’s length on the wing were pinpointed as concerns by Michigan coach John Beilein. However, Tennessee’s trademark is smothering defense, and the Vols are one of the nation’s leaders with a 40 percent opponents’ field goal percentage.
“I think that it will just come down to will, just like the same game as last time. You know, will, how bad do we want it,” said Glenn Robinson III, whose father played at Purdue alongside Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin. “We have to go out there with the right mindset and I think we prepared well.”
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