Michigan guard Isaiah Livers said don’t count him out from playing in this wacky NCAA tournament where every game will be played in the same state. He gingerly gets around these days in a walking boot because of a stress fracture on his right leg that got progressively worse during the season.
Finally it gave out at the worst time for the Wolverines who were run from the Big Ten tournament semifinals by Ohio State and now face a tall task in the NCAA tournament as a number one seed.
Next Man Up
The Wolverines (20-4) made it this far because there are a lot of perfectly fitted moving parts that guided them to a Big Ten regular season title and top seed in the tournament.
Livers is a huge moving part and Michigan cannot advance to the Final Four without turning back the clock and creating some magic.
Coach Juwan Howard talked about the “next man up mentality.” Actually he has three men in the starting line up who can make up for Liver’s absence. However, there is no margin for error and all three must become nearly perfect for Michigan to make a strong tournament run.
Hunter Dickinson Must Become the Mountain Man
Bill Walton’s resume runs deeper than being a zany commentator for late-night west coast games. He was also Most Outstanding Player in leading UCLA to the 1973 NCAA championship by scoring 44 points in the championship game on 21 of 22 shooting.
Dickinson must become a modern version of the Mountain Man. The 7-foot-1 freshman averaged 14.2 points and 7.6 rebounds, but is capable of much bigger nights. For instance he had 21 points and a splendid strip and scoop basket near the end of Michigan’s 68-67 Big Ten tournament loss to Ohio State.
The great thing about Dickinson is he can maneuver from left to right as well as he can from right to left, just as long as those moves take him to the center of the paint where he polishes off defenders with a baby jump hook or soft floater.
The problem is Dickinson is not as polished along the baseline. He has yet to develop anything that resembles the Tim Duncan bank shot. Dickinson’s offensive weakness is he rushes when he attacks baseline and often rushes and short arms shots where he often finds the bank to be closed.
However, if he is allowed in the paint Dickinson can dominate.
During Michigan’s 1989 championship run Glen Rice was unstoppable. The shooting guard from Flint shot 56 percent from the floor and made 50 percent of his three-point attempts.
This is the role Franz Wagner must assume. He is a 6-foot-9 guard with great length who can block shots and choke off the passing lane. He can also shoot. Rice averaged 25.6 points a game during his magical run. That is probably not in the cards for Wagner, but he must get hot from outside and remain smoldering throughout the tournament.
Michigan Cashing In
Mike Smith is doing a wonderful job at leading the Wolverines at point guard. They need a little more
Just recently we were treated to the magical run of Michigan State guard Cassius Winston, a man whose game might not be suited for the NBA, but sure was tailor-made for the NCAA. He seemed to hit every big shot during the Spartans Final Four run two seasons ago. He got lost among the big men inside and flung up prayers that seemed to find their way to the bottom of the basket.
Smith must become that man.
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