Michigan Basketball: Biggest Surprises of Wolverines' 2014 NCAA Tournament

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIMarch 27, 2014

Michigan Basketball: Biggest Surprises of Wolverines' 2014 NCAA Tournament

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    Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan are both finding ways to surprise college basketball fans in the NCAA tournament.
    Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan are both finding ways to surprise college basketball fans in the NCAA tournament.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Every year, the NCAA tournament brings plenty of surprises, and the Michigan basketball team has given college basketball fans a few of those entering the second week of March Madness.

    An unheralded and constantly overlooked fifth-year senior is doing things no one could have seen coming a little more than a month ago. Another Wolverine appears to be proving he has a knack for showing up under the bright lights of March.

    Shots have gone in from just about everywhere for Michigan, while some of the Midwest Region's top contenders could not get enough attempts to stay down and will watch the final rounds play out from their couches.

    Meanwhile, the Wolverines are alive and a bigger threat than ever to make a second straight trip to the Final Four. These four surprises are a major part of why they look like a contender right now.

Jordan Morgan

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    Jordan Morgan has made a return trip to the Final Four more realistic than ever.
    Jordan Morgan has made a return trip to the Final Four more realistic than ever.Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    By far the most surprising development for Michigan during the NCAA tournament has been Jordan Morgan. 

    What was once the potential weak spot in the Wolverines lineup is now playing the best basketball of his career. He recorded a double-double against Wofford and Texas, which has given him an average of 12.5 points and 10 rebounds per game through two rounds.

    Those numbers are astronomically better than the 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds the Detroit product averaged for the season. True, the tournament is a much smaller sample size, but it puts what Morgan has done as of late into perspective.

    Friday night against Tennessee, though, he will be in for his toughest test to date. Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes have combined to average 29 points and 23.7 rebounds in the NCAA tournament. 

    If Morgan can keep up his current level of play and slow down half of Tennessee's post duo, Michigan should make a second straight trip to the Elite Eight.

Three-Point Shooting

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    The threes are falling at an alarming rate for Michigan.
    The threes are falling at an alarming rate for Michigan.Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    It is not all that surprising Michigan won its first two games by a combined 31 points behind its three-point shooting. However, it was a bit unexpected to watch 21 threes go down, including 14 against Texas.

    The Wolverines have shot 40.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. Against Texas and Wofford, they went 21-of-45 (46.7 percent) from long distance. Even for a good three-point shooting team like Michigan, those numbers are enough to raise more than a few eyebrows.

    Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert led the way for the Wolverines. Stauskas drained seven treys, while LeVert added four. Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. and Glenn Robinson III chipped in seven three-pointers as well.

    It is tough to expect Michigan to continue knocking down triples at its current rate, but it is not out of the question either. Of the aforementioned players, Robinson is the only one who shoots below 40.8 percent on long-range attempts. Freshman Zak Irvin also drains threes at a 40.8 percent clip coming off the bench.

    Tennessee and Kentucky have enough length to bother the Wolverines' shooters on the perimeter, on paper anyway. Stopping them will be a tall order, which is why Michigan's chances of making the Final Four are better than ever.

Early Upsets of Top Seeds

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    Kentucky is one of the biggest surprises in the Sweet 16.
    Kentucky is one of the biggest surprises in the Sweet 16.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Once the brackets were unveiled on Selection Sunday, it became apparent Michigan was stuck in the toughest region of the NCAA tournament. Thanks to a couple of losses by some of the biggest threats to a second straight Final Four appearance, the Wolverines' road doesn't seem so tough anymore.

    Top-seeded Wichita State fell to Kentucky in the round of 32. Third-seeded Duke didn't even make it to the weekend. UMass, the No. 6 seed in the region, bowed out against Tennessee in the second round.

    Plus, if Michigan does manage to get past the 11th-seeded Volunteers on Friday, it will likely get an exhausted Louisville or Kentucky squad. Having to play an emotionally draining rivalry game in the Sweet 16 is not exactly ideal.

    Advantage: Wolverines.

    All of a sudden, Michigan's path to Arlington is no more challenging than anyone else's. It will still need to get by a pair of great teams, but its region is much more manageable than it appeared to be a couple of weeks ago.

Glenn Robinson III's Ongoing Surge

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    Glenn Robinson III's jumper is falling once again, which could lead to a rise in his NBA draft stock.
    Glenn Robinson III's jumper is falling once again, which could lead to a rise in his NBA draft stock.Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Glenn Robinson III is at it again. After being a complete nonfactor in Michigan's loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament title game, the sophomore small forward is surging through the early rounds of the NCAA tournament.

    Through two games, he is averaging 14 points and six rebounds and is shooting 45.8 percent from the floor. This brings his averages for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament over the past two seasons to 15.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 60.5 percent shooting. 

    What has been most surprising, though, is how he is scoring. 

    There are still plenty of highlights at the rim to choose from, but he is shooting the ball with confidence, particularly from beyond the arc. Robinson knocked down two of his three attempts from distance in Michigan's rout of Texas last Saturday. His mid-range jumper also looks as reliable as ever.

    "When Texas was making a run midway through the second half it was Robinson that answered the bell," Dylan Burkhardt of UMHoops wrote. "He had a huge block, a very strong drive and finish at the rim and then a wing three-pointer. Robinson is slowly starting to look like the player that everyone wanted him to be and he couldn’t be rounding into form at a better time for the Wolverines."

    When he has that part of his game going, Robinson is an absolute nightmare to guard. The Wolverines should become a trendy pick to win it all, if his jump shots continue to fall.