The 2013 NCAA tournament bracket has been unveiled, which means college basketball experts across the country are attempting to assess how far the Michigan Wolverines can advance.
Michigan finished the regular season with a 26-7 overall record and a 12-6 mark in Big Ten Conference play. The Wolverines finished fifth in the league, earning them the No. 4 seed in the South Region for the Big Dance.
Analysts and journalists have vastly different opinions about whether or not Michigan can rebound from a 6-6 record in its final 12 games. The Maize and Blue's 2-6 record against the top four teams in the Big Ten has made things difficult for the experts to predict how the Wolverines will perform in the postseason.
On paper, Michigan is a Final Four contender. Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke may very well be the best point guard in America. Burke is flanked by first team All-Big Ten shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., honorable mention small forward Glenn Robinson III and freshman sharp-shooter Nik Stauskas.
Scoring is not an issue for the Wolverines, who ranked among the top 30 teams in field goal percentage (48.4) and points per game (75.2).
A weak interior has been Michigan's kryptonite all season long, though. Redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan, true freshman Mitch McGary and Jon Horford all struggled against the larger, physical front courts of the Big Ten.
For this reason, Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports listed the Wolverines among his "fraudulent five," and is predicting an early exit for head coach John Beilein's group.
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com also has Michigan being knocked out during the first week of action. In fact, Dodd was bold enough to pick the South Dakota State Jackrabbits over the Wolverines in the round of 64.
Not many other experts share Dodd's opinion, though. Most expect the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks to emerge from the top half of the South Region rather than the Wolverines.
ESPN analysts Seth Greenberg, Digger Phelps and Jay Williams all have the Jayhawks making it to the Elite Eight, meaning Michigan will bow out in the Sweet 16.
Most have the Wolverines knocking off South Dakota State before they are toppled by the Virginia Commonwealth Rams in the round of 32. Jay Bilas and Andy Katz of ESPN have VCU making it all the way to the Final Four, after beating Michigan this Saturday. Dana O'Neil shares their view.
Bracket guru Joe Lunardi of ESPN has a much different view of the Wolverines than his colleagues, however.
Lunardi believes the local venue, the Palace of Auburn Hills, will allow Michigan to "get its mojo back" and take down both South Dakota State and VCU. In the Sweet 16, Lunardi has the Wolverines taking down Kansas, before falling to the third-seeded Florida Gators in the regional championship.
Renowned color commentator Dick Vitale is of the opinion the Wolverines will navigate through their first three games, and topple the No. 2 seed Georgetown Hoyas in the Elite Eight.
National columnist Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com also has Michigan advancing to the Final Four and beating the Indiana Hoosiers for the first time in three tries this season. Doyel believes the Wolverines will be ousted by the Ohio State Buckeyes in the national title game.
Yours truly has Michigan beating South Dakota State, VCU and the eight-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels. The Wolverines will not be able to match Florida's physicality in the regional final, though.
As long as Michigan takes care of the basketball, it should win both games in Auburn Hills. Taking down Kansas, Florida or Georgetown later on will be tall orders for the Wolverines given their lackluster post play.
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