Overview: Someday, folks will remember not to bet against John Beilein, this writer included. The Michigan coach can game plan with the best of them, able to impose his will and style on virtually any other opponent. Consider the Wolverines' 73-61 "upset" of eighth-ranked Memphis a coaching clinic, this time victimizing Josh Pastner.
Turning point: The Wolverines really won this game at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, stretching a two-point lead into a six-point edge by the half and never really letting the Tigers back in it during the second half after Zack Novak's 3-pointer extended the lead to eight shortly after the half.
Why Michigan won: Vintage Beilein here. The Wolverines took smart shots -- dribbling in for a better-looking 2 in favor of a low-percentage 3 on more than one occasion -- and controlled the tempo against a high-speed Memphis attack. Michigan shot a blistering 54 percent from the floor, in part due to the Tigers’ lack of defense but equally due to the Wolverines’ wise shot selection.
Why Memphis lost: The Tigers’ lack of discipline cost them against a team that personifies discipline. For every good shot the Wolverines took, Memphis took an ill-advised one. Memphis shot just 33 percent, forced to take long-range jumpers as the Wolverines kept them from getting to the rim. Memphis, a team designed to dribble penetrate, instead took 21 3-pointers. Worse, the Tigers made only four.
Star of the game: No surprise, it’s Tim Hardaway Jr. This is his team and Michigan will be as good as he is -- and in this game, he was terrific. He scored 21 points, connecting on 6-of-12 from the floor and also pulling in a critical seven rebounds.
What it means: It’s November so bold statements from one game are a little daring. But certainly some broad observations are in order. For starters, Michigan should be considered a factor in the Big Ten. The team that finished well a year ago looks like it's back on track again. Meanwhile, the same questions that dogged Memphis are rearing their heads here early on. The Tigers made too many foolish mistakes, unable to temper their own motor. If Memphis wants to live up to its talent, it has to realize smart wins just as much as skill.
More observations: The fretting over the departure of Darius Morris was completely unnecessary. Not only did Michigan look efficient, freshman Trey Burke was steady, if not brilliant. Beilein applied the perfect teacher’s mentality, allowing Burke to make some mistakes -- he committed three turnovers -- but trusting his rookie to do the right thing more often than not. Burke rewarded him with 14 points and four assists. … Michigan, not exactly known for its rebounding prowess, absolutely annihilated the more athletic Tigers on the glass, beating Memphis 35-21 in rebounds. What’s interesting, the Wolverines conceded offensive boards to the Tigers. Fearful of Memphis’ ability to get out and run, Michigan only brought down four offensive rebounds. And they still owned a 14-rebound edge for the game.
What’s next: The Wolverines advance to the winner’s side, where they will take on either Tennessee or Duke. Memphis drops toward the consolation round and will play the loser of the Vols-Blue Devils game. It would be something if the Tigers and Tennessee took their rivalry all the way to Maui. Remember, Michigan beat Tennessee in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament and nearly upset Duke in the second. Morris’ runner came up short, ending the Wolverines’ rally from 15 points down.