Michigan’s magical March continues as Wolverines find redemption vs. Louisville

Posted by    |    March 19th, 2017 at 1:22 pm

The Wolverines and their coach exacted some revenge in punching a Sweet 16 ticket.

Michigan is going to the Sweet 16. The No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest region beat No. 2 Louisville in the round of 32 on Sunday, 73-69, in Indianapolis. The Wolverines will play Oregon or Rhode Island next weekend in Kansas City. A live, updating tournament bracket is right here.

Michigan entered as the tournament’s hottest team. The Wolverines had won six in a row, including a four-game jaunt through the Big Ten tournament and a first-round win against Oklahoma State. Louisville had just beaten No. 15 Jacksonville State, and the Cardinals posed the biggest threat yet to Michigan’s run.

The Wolverines conquered the threat. The Cards had a 36-28 lead at halftime and stayed in front well into the second half, but John Beilein’s team didn’t fold.

The Wolverines tied the game just inside the 10-minute mark, and they closed strong. Louisville almost mounted a counter-comeback after UM built a six-point lead with 1:18 left, but Michigan held on in the nick of time.

Michigan center Moritz Wagner had a career-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. D.J. Wilson added 17 for the Wolverines.

The win further entrenches Michigan in its Team Nobody Wants to Play status.

The Wolverines’ have an air of magic around them right now, and the combination of them being hot now and having an elite offense makes them terrifying. The Wolverines were a bubble team for much of this season. That feels so long ago now.

Michigan still has a ways to travel to win a national title. The Wolverines will only play excellent teams the rest of the way. But they’ve got that look.

Beilein and Michigan both flipped the script on some painful history.

Beilein and Pitino are both among the best coaches of this era, but Pitino had gotten the best of Beilein in a couple of key tournament spots before.

In 2005, Beilein was coaching at West Virginia. He led WVU on a wonderful Cinderella run to the Elite Eight. The Mountaineers hadn’t even been in the tournament in seven years, but their March was awesome. As a No 7 seed, they won by two against Creighton in the first round, by six against No. 2 Wake Forest in the second. They beat Bob Knight’s Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 and were a tourney darling by the Elite Eight.

Then WVU played Louisville, and the magic looked like it would continue. The Mountaineers had a 13-point lead at halftime, but a Larry O’Bannon and Taquan Dean-led Louisville came back to force overtime, where it outscored the ‘Eers by eight.

We all remember 2013’s game. Michigan star Trey Burke sat for much of the first half with two fouls, while reserve Spike Albrecht ripped off 17 early points in his absence.

Michigan built itself a nice lead, but that evaporated by halftime, because Louisville’s Luke Hancock went on a 14-point spurt right before the break. The second half went poorly. Pitino’s team won, setting this game up as a revenge shot for Michigan.

Today’s Michigan/Louisville game is a rematch of the 2013 #NationalChampionship pic.twitter.com/kOgdmDmmXn

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 19, 2017

The Wolverines didn’t waste it, and Beilein avoided NCAA tournament pain for a third time against his Hall of Fame counterpart. (Pitino’s Louisville had also beaten Beilein’s WVU in a Big East tournament two-overtime game in 2007, for whatever it’s worth.)

But that’s not what’s most important right now. What’s most important is that the Wolverines are still playing and looking as dangerous as anybody.