Whether the Michigan Wolverines return to the Final Four in 2014 will depend heavily on the play of sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III, who played a key role for John Beilein's squad as they won five NCAA tournament games and reached the title game a year ago.
Robinson and the Wolverines' 2014 tournament journey will begin on Thursday against 15th-seeded Wofford, who won the Southern Conference Tournament to secure an automatic berth in the Big Dance.
Despite being 16-point favorites to prevail, Beilein said he doesn't believe his team is looking ahead, per MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn:
I think our team is pretty mature that way and they realize this because of what they did last year. They're just kids that sort of 'get it' a little bit and realize that at this time of year, everybody can really play...That’s why this thing is the greatest event on earth. Because there are 68 teams and truthfully there are upsets waiting to happen all over the place. That’s why everybody loves it.
With tipoff fast approaching, we'll break down Robinson's blueprint for success in the second round and project his final stat line vs. the Terriers.
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Michigan will rely heavily on sophomore sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, but Robinson will also have a say in how deep the Wolverines go.
And while Robinson and Michigan can afford to struggle against Wofford, he can't go missing for long if the Wolverines are going to return to the national championship game, per Detroit Free Press' Jamie Samuelsen:
I honestly forget Glenn Robinson III is on this team sometimes.— Jamie Samuelsen (@JamieSamuelsen) March 16, 2014
Coming into the tournament, the 20-year-old forward is Michigan's third-leading scorer and a key contributor on the glass, averaging 13 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. With Mitch McGary out, Robinson will need to be an even bigger factor on the boards this March.
He's certainly capable of stepping up. At 6'6", 220 pounds, Robinson is a long, athletic forward who can elevate with ease. His scoring prowess and basketball IQ also stand out.
Against overmatched Wofford, Robinson will need to attack the basket and avoid settling for long-range shots. Despite shooting 32.4 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman last season, Robinson is only shooting 27.6 percent from distance this year, going 0-of-3 against Michigan State in Sunday's Big Ten tournament final loss.
By playing aggressively from the start, Robinson will be able to put the Terriers in early foul trouble and get to the line for easy points. Although his three-point shooting numbers are down this season, he's improved his stroke at the charity stripe, connecting on 75 percent of his free throws compared to just 67.6 percent last year.
So long as Robinson is maximizing his athleticism and taking smart shots, he doesn't need to score 20 points for Michigan to move on to the round of 32.
Which player will have the biggest impact for Michigan vs. Wofford?
After all, the Wolverines project to get plenty of scoring from Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.
Defensively, Robinson will need to utilize his length to alter shots and secure rebounds. Limiting second-chance points will be key for Michigan in avoiding the upset. With Robinson likely to play 30-plus minutes, his focus on that end of the floor will be critical.
Wofford junior Lee Skinner is someone Robinson will likely be battling throughout Thursday's game. The 6'6" forward is the Terriers' third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, pulling down nearly nine per game.
If Robinson can slow Skinner and at least match him in points and rebounds, Michigan will have a great shot to survive and advance.
Projected Final Stat Line: 18 points (7-of-12 FG, 1-of-3 3PT, 3-of-4 FT), 7 rebounds and 1 assist.
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