By KRISTIAN CAMPBELL, Staff Writer
Three teams will represent the state of Michigan at the biggest college basketball tournament of the year — Michigan, Michigan State and a surprise appearance by the University of Detroit. Though you can expect a good show, don’t count on seeing any of them in the Final Four.
Michigan State has been a basketball powerhouse for most of two decades now. They received the number one seed in the West Region bracket, opening Friday against the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. A few people are picking State to win it all, with the big presence of senior forward Draymond Green. Their toughest game won’t be until the Elite Eight, however, where they’ll more than likely face Missouri or Marquette. But I’m calling Murray State to be this year’s Butler.
Michigan State started off the season unranked in the major polls. They played good basketball for the majority of the season and ended ranked fifth, according to the AP Poll. Success in the tourney has been common for the Tom Izzo-coached Spartans, reaching the Final Four six times in his 17 years at MSU. They also won the National Championship in 2000.
The University of Detroit Titans will start off the tourney Friday against two seed Kansas. Detroit’s a good team but is opening against a tough squad that just recently lost in their Big 12 championship game to Missouri. So if a 15 seed is going to beat a two seed in this tournament, look at this one. But more than likely, the Titans will lose this game badly.
The Titans had a solid year, winning the Horizon League conference championship. They went 0-2 against ranked opponents this year losing both games by a combined total of 13 points, but neither of those opponents play at the level Kansas will bring. Detroit is led by scoring leader Ray McCallum, whose father is the head coach of the Titans and is rumored to be a candidate for the coaching vacancy at Illinois.
The University of Michigan is the four seed in their second consecutive appearance and third in four years. They open Friday against number 13 Ohio. Michigan should make it to the Elite Eight, but they’ll probably have to beat the Tar Heels to play into the Final Four. Michigan should play them tough, though.
The Wolverines at one point were a national powerhouse until a scandal shook the program and broke them down to mediocrity. John Beilein has fixed that. Though they aren’t the program they once were during the Fab Five’s tenure, they are definitely heading in the right direction. Starting the season ranked 18th and finishing 13th, they also won a share of the regular season Big 10 title for the first time since 1986. They’ve been to the Big Dance three times in the five years that Beilein has been coaching, going 2-2 in the tourney.
(Have your own predictions on the success of Michigan’s teams? If so, we’d like to hear them. Post a comment on Kristian’s predictions and share a few of your own.)