The Wolverine

May 2016 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 81 of 177

BY JOHN BORTON M ost prognosticators figured Michigan to be back in the NCAA Tournament mix in 2016, and they were. Those projections, of course, flooded in without any foresight into the sink- holes down the road. Back in October, nobody knew se- nior guard and national player of the year candidate Caris LeVert would suffer a foot injury in the first Big Ten game, essentially ending his college career. Nobody knew senior guard Spike Albrecht couldn't return effec- tively from double hip surgeries over the summer, wiping out any Michi- gan senior presence on the floor. Nobody knew that while junior wing Zak Irvin managed to return from offseason back surgery, the proce- dure would affect him all season long. Nobody anticipated the depth and fa- tigue issues attrition would cause. At least one individual who in- sisted the Wolverines would be danc- ing again in 2016 firmly waves off the notion that he'd have stayed with that call if given a crystal ball. "Absolutely not," cautioned former Wolverine and ESPN college basket- ball analyst Tim McCormick. "No, I would have said this is an NIT team. You don't lose your key players and not have a big setback. There's no way I would have thought that." So why were the Wolverines admit- tedly so crestfallen following their 70-63 NCAA Tournament ouster at the hands of Notre Dame? That's easy. They'd survived all of the above to make the tournament. They'd weathered a tepid shooting showing (including 24 percent from three-point range) to win an NCAA "First Four" contest over Tulsa in Dayton, Ohio. They'd played one of their best halves of basketball all year against the Irish, leading by 12 at the half. Twenty more strong minutes against a team that eventually made the Elite Eight and the Wolverines could have kept playing basketball. SatiSfying Entry, tOUgH EXit Wolverines Return To The NCAA Tournament But Wanted To Stay Longer

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