DAYTON, Ohio -- In the East Region, the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines will battle against the No. 11 Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Wednesday at 9:10 PM ET in the NCAA Tournament First Four. The winner will advance to play the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Path to the NCAA Tournament
Michigan's chance to make the Big Dance was a blur until the Maize and Blue knocked down a jumper with 3.3 seconds left in overtime against the Northwestern Wildcats and a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Indiana Hoosiers. With both of those key Big Ten Tournament victories, the squad grabbed a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines (22-12) of the Big Ten Conference lost to the Xavier Musketeers (86-70), Connecticut Huskies (74-60), SMU Mustangs (82-58), Purdue Boilermakers (87-70), Iowa Hawkeyes (82-71), Indiana (80-67), Michigan State Spartans (89-73), Ohio State Buckeyes (76-66), Maryland Terrapins (86-82), Wisconsin Badgers (68-57), Iowa Hawkeyes (71-61) and Purdue (76-59). Of the 12 games Michigan has lost this season, 11 of them have been by double digits. If the Golden Hurricane from the American Athletic Conference can get out to a comfortable lead early in the game, Michigan will have to defy odds to make a comeback. The game final loss against Purdue knocked the Wolverines out of the Big Ten Tournament and sent the Boilermakers to the final game against Michigan State.
Michigan made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on a three-pointer from Kameron Chatman as time expired to give the Wolverines a 72-69 win over Indiana.
"It's something I'll never forget," Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. said. "But that's just what March is. Spectacular things happen around this time, and we're fortunate that we're on a high end of some of those scenarios."
The Golden Hurricane (20-11) have dropped 11 games this season, while winning 20 games. The team lost to the Mustangs of SMU, just like Michigan. However, Tulsa bounced back and beat SMU the second time the two parties squared off. Tulsa topped Connecticut by nine points and then fell by two later in the season. The biggest win of the season was over the Wichita State Shockers on the second game of the year, 77-67.
After losing to Memphis 89-67 in the opening game of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, Tulsa looked like a prime-time shot to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), but apparently the Golden Hurricane just snuck into the First Four.
"I felt like we deserved to be here and everything, but how things were looking how people were talking -- it was just kind of what my mind was at the time," Shaquille Harrison, a starting guard for Tulsa, said.
What To Watch For
The one aspect that Tulsa has an advantage in is experience. The Golden Hurricane has four senior and one junior on the floor to start each and every game. The Wolverines, only have two seniors on the roster and both will not be active. Caris LeVert announced on March 1, 2016 that he will sit out the season with a leg injury and Spike Albrecht has not been playing and will not play the rest of the season due to a hip injury.
"We've got to use our veteran-laden team as an advantage in this tournament because we have been around a long time," Tulsa guard James Woodard said. "We've seen every situation."
Michigan owns a 44-19 record in the NCAA Tournament, which is not including the two years that the team had to vacate records due to NCAA violations. Tulsa is making the teams 16th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Tulsa made it to the Sweet 16 three times and just once to the Elite Eight. In 2013, Michigan, as a No. 4 seed, made it to the NCAA Tournament championship against the No. 1 Louisville Cardinals, but lost. During that same year, Tulsa lost to the Wright State Raiders in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).
What Would Be Next?
The winner of the NCAA Tournament First Four game between Tulsa and Michigan will advance to play the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on Friday night in Brooklyn, New York.
No. 11 Tulsa Golden Hurricane
G - Pat Birt
G - Shaquille Harrison
G - James Woodard
F - Brandon Swannegan
F - Rashad Smith
No. 11 Michigan Wolverines
G - Derrick Walton Jr.
G - Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
F - Duncan Robinson
F - Zak Irvin
F - Mark Donnal