Exceeding Expectations

Exceeding+Expectations

Shea Miller

Michigan’s basketball’s season is over. A sentence I did not want to type with the March Madness tournament still in progress. The Wolverines lost, 51-49, to UCLA in the Elite Eight at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Tuesday night. It truly was a heart-breaking loss for U-M, which they had many chances to take the lead in the final minutes but no shots would fall for them sadly. I first want to give credit to how well UCLA played so far in the tournament and congratulate them for making it to the final four as a 11 seed. Mick Cronin, UCLA’s head coach has done an amazing job coaching the kids he has and putting them in a position to win. Johnny Juzang has showed tremendous heart and skill in the tournament especially last night since it really looked like a one man show even though Juzang hurt his ankle in the middle of the game and had to sit out for a few minutes. He put the team on his back, scoring 28 points on 11-19 shooting. The second leading scorer for the Bruins had 11 points and three other kids on the team had four points, and the rest had zero. The Wolverines, meanwhile, had one player reach double digits (Hunter Dickinson, with 11) and played one of their worst offensive games of the season.

Michigan had the ball with 19.8 seconds left, down by one with a chance to take the lead. Juwan Howard called timeout to draw up a play only for Franz Wagner to shot an air-ball on a 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left. Johnny Juzang made the front end of a one-and-one but missed the second. That gave Michigan the ball with six seconds left and a chance to tie the game. Mike Smith raced up the court and got an open 3, but missed. The ball was tapped out of bounds by UCLA. The Wolverines found Wagner on the inbounds with 0.5 seconds remaining — but his 3 at the buzzer clanged off the backboard and rim, sealing Michigan’s fate. Michigan simply did not make enough winning plays. In the final four minutes or so, the Wolverines came up with empty trip after empty trip — with an array of devastating misses at the rim.

Michigan’s offense struggled all night long, finishing 20-for-51 (39.2%) from the field with 14 turnovers. The Wolverines missed layups, put-backs and 3s. It simply was not enough in a game where UCLA had the most talented shot-maker on the floor in Johnny Juzang. Michigan just looked off their game and could not stop turning the ball over and missing easy looks. Overall, I would still say with confidence that the Michigan Wolverines Greatly exceeded expectations this year and were really fun to watch every game as I saw their chemistry increase with every game played.  They were even able to keep it together when they lost their leading scorer Isaiah Livers. Hats off to Juwan Howard for doing an amazing job with this group this year and I only expect Michigan to come back better every year especially since they have the number one recruiting class coming in next season and Juwan Howard will only get better as a coach.