NCAA Tournament

5 Takeaways from Michigan Wolverines vs. Kentucky Wildcats Elite Eight Action

Kendall BakerContributor IIIMarch 31, 2014

5 Takeaways from Michigan Wolverines vs. Kentucky Wildcats Elite Eight Action

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    March Madness, baby. My gosh, that was fun.

    After a ridiculous game-winning three-pointer by Aaron Harrison, Kentucky is headed to the Final Four to face the Wisconsin Badgers.

    Michigan put up a valiant effort and actually led for the majority of the game. However, in the end it was the fantastic freshmen who cut down the nets.

    This was arguably the best game so far in the tournament, and it really did have it all. From a bench player making an enormous impact for the Wildcats to Michigan's Nik Stauskas putting his team on his back and proving his incredible season was no fluke, everything about this game was awesome.

    If you needed a reminder of why college basketball is so great, this was it. It was a nail-biter down to the very end, and Harrison's incredible shot to win it was a fitting conclusion.

    So what did we learn? What can we take away from the action?

     

     

5. The Commentating During This Tournament Has Been Outstanding

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    The NCAA tournament has given us some incredible games so far, and behind each one of them is an unforgettable voice.

    Bill Rafferty calling the Connecticut vs. Michigan State game was a treat.

    I mean, who else would you want commentating a college basketball game live from Madison Square Garden?

    Reggie Miller spoke with so much passion during the games he was announcing that it would have surprised no one had he run onto the court and hit a game-winning three himself.

    The guy loves the game of basketball, and as an audience, our viewing experience is that much better because of it.

    In Sunday's game, we had Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony calling the action, both of whom did a fantastic job. 

    I have a deep appreciation for Anthony's ability to remind his audience of significant statistics or suggest strategic options at the perfect time. Even the most intelligent basketball fans have to love the golden tidbits of information he shares. They're always right on point.

    He also does a great job of making complex basketball concepts seem simple to less knowledgeable viewers. I'd compare him to Cris Collinsworth in that sense. Understanding your audience is a true skill, and they both have it.

    So on behalf of all of us viewers, thank you Bill, Reggie, Jim, Greg and the rest of the gang for making these games so much fun.

     

     

4. Glenn Robinson III Disappears from Games Far Too Often

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Glenn Robinson finished Sunday night's game with 14 points and hit a huge three-pointer down the stretch for the Wolverines. However, it would have been easy to forget he was even on the court for long stretches of the game.

    This was a recurring theme for Robinson all year. He possesses all the athleticism in the world and can shoot the deep ball, which makes him an incredibly tough cover. Yet, he lacks the aggressiveness to take over games. 

    In Sunday's matchup, Michigan desperately needed Robinson to take advantage of the much slower power forwards Kentucky had guarding him. While he had some nice moves to the basket and faded off of a few screens to get himself open looks from behind the three-point line, he could have done a lot more.

    Even if he wasn't scoring the ball, a more aggressive Robinson would have put pressure on Kentucky's defense and allowed for Michigan's shooters to get open looks from deep much more regularly. 

3. Marcus Lee Might Be a First-Round Pick Had He Played More This Season

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    David J. Phillip

    Due to Willie Cauley-Stein's injury, Marcus Lee got the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in this game and took full advantage of it.

    He scored 10 points, grabbed eight boards, blocked two shots and had Aaron Harrison not hit the game-winning shot, Lee could have made a strong case for game MVP.

    So where's this been all year? Lee hadn’t scored more than one basket in a game since November 19.

    Like John Calipari mentioned during his halftime interview, Lee is a terrific player who just happens to be behind two other terrific players on the depth chart.

    He's the 19th overall recruit in his class, riding the pine behind the No. 2 recruit (Julius Randle) and a future first-round draft pick (Cauley-Stein).

    #KentuckyProblems.

    Against Michigan, Lee showcased athletic ability that has to have NBA scouts drooling. He may not have a developed offensive game yet, but anyone who can get up like this and stands at 6'9" is going to get a shot at the NBA.

    Barring some crazy development, Lee will be back next year for Kentucky, ready to play a lot more minutes and sure to generate a ton of draft buzz. 

    However, if he were to declare for this year's NBA draft, would you pass on him in, say, the early second round? 

    It's crazy how one game can have such a huge impact, but anyone watching Sunday night had to be impressed.

     

     

     

2. John Beilein Is an Elite Basketball Coach and Deserves a Lot More Credit

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    Michael Conroy

    After leading the Wolverines to the national championship game last season, John Beilein faced the tough task of replacing the National Player of the Year, Trey Burke, and another first-round NBA draft pick, Tim Hardaway Jr. 

    Then, just 10 games into this season, with Michigan sitting at an underwhelming 6-4, starting center Mitch McGary was lost for the year to a back injury.

    Many teams would have folded right then and there. Instead, this Wolverines group went ahead and won the Big Ten regular season championship, secured a No. 2 seed in the tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight.

    Not bad.

    One of the qualities that best defines a coach's greatness is his or her ability to get the most out of his or her players. John Beilein does this as well as anybody.

    First, he recruits based on a system that relies heavily on floor spacing and the ability to shoot the three ball.

    Then he teaches his players how to play solid, fundamental defense without fouling.

    Next, he instills confidence in his team by placing guys in roles where they will be most effective.

    Beilein has built a "program," in every sense of the word, at Michigan. He did the same thing at West Virginia. He trusts in his system, and he gets college kids to buy into it. 

    When he came to Michigan back in 2007, the Wolverines hadn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1998. Under Beilein they've made appearances in five of the last six years.

    It's time to give this guy the recognition he deserves.

     

1. The Harrison Twins Helped Their Draft Stocks More Than Anyone This Tournament

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Coming into the NCAA tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats were a team comprised of a bunch of talented freshmen whose inability to play together led to extreme inconsistency throughout the season.

    No players epitomized this notion more than Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the fifth- and seventh-ranked players, respectively, in their recruiting class (according to Rivals). 

    For Andrew, games like the one he had against Tennessee back in January (26 points on 7-of-13 shooting) were quickly forgotten following his many poor performances, including his eight-point outing (on 3-of-14 shooting) against Florida in the last regular-season game of the year.

    For Aaron, his 34.6 field-goal percentage from behind the arc this year wasn't anything to write home about, especially considering he's known as a shooter. On the other hand, he had eight 20-point games for the Wildcats.

    You get the picture. These are two extraordinary talents who had up-and-down seasons, leading many to believe they weren't ready for the NBA and would be wise to stay another year in Lexington.

    While they could both definitely benefit from one more year of college, no one is questioning their NBA-readiness anymore.

    Not after the performances they've put on in this tournament.

    Andrew scored 20 points in the dramatic win over Wichita State and has improved so much in terms of getting his teammates involved, dishing out seven assists against Louisville and another six Sunday night against Michigan.

    Aaron is averaging 16 points per game and has made 13 of his 24 three-point attempts (54 percent). 

    The entire Kentucky team has grown up before our eyes here in March, but it all starts with the Harrison twins. 

     

     

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