Oklahoma State fought to the wire on Friday, but MI used a barrage of second half threes to keep the Cowboys at bay and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 92-91.
MI will play the victor of 2-seed Louisville and 15-seed Jacksonville State in the second round. MI sealed it at the free-throw line, though Oklahoma State finished the game with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. MI enters the NCAA Tournament after four incredible games and one life-changing event, certainly making themselves one of the hottest teams in the country. MI coach John Beilein was making his 11th career appearance in the NCAA tournament, including his seventh with the Wolverines.
"He's the head dog of this entire program so to see him laughing and joking lightens the mood around here", said senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
Now, a number of the conference's usual heavy-hitters-Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Maryland-had great seasons, and made the tournament because of it.
The last time MI and Louisville played a basketball game the 2013 national championship was on the line. This is a game that the Wolverines can win, but with the immediate aftermath of the plane crash and conference tournament now in the rear-view mirror, they must bring a new energy and spark into the madness.
MI has already started their home opening series against 3-13 Northern Illinois, winning the first game of the series 7-4.
Round One of the NCAA tournament tipped off Friday afternoon at Banker's Life Fieldhouse with MI taking on Oklahoma State. We're breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
10 Oklahoma State upset No. 7 MI in the first round? No. 9 Michigan State (19-14) plays the University of Miami (21-11), the Midwest Region's No. 8 seed, at 9:20 p.m., also in Indianapolis.
The Cowboys were set as a 2.5 point underdog to the Wolverines and the game opened as close as most observers expected. Oklahoma State likes to get to the free throw line, where they rank fourth nationally shooting 78.7%.
"I just felt like defensively, when you get stops, get a couple stops in a row, it kind of gets your offense going", senior Leyton Hammonds said of the run.
Jordan Washington had 22 points and 11 rebounds for 14th-seeded Iona (22-13). Again Michigan was given little chance to settle into play in the second half as the Cowboys came out hot, making 8-of-9 shots to build a 59-54 lead with 14:02 remaining. He embraced the 3-point shot long before it became fashionable.
Trends of note: MI is 6-0 on neutral ground this season and the Cowboys have gone Under the Total a ideal 5-0 in their last 5 NCAA Tournament affairs as an oddsmaker opening underdog between a pick'em and 6.5 points. Enter Rhode Island, a team that thrives on defense, and is stocked full of shot-blocking bigs that can make any team uncomfortable.
MI head coach John Beilein isn't usually in a laughing mood. "Coming out of half, we were kinda lethargic in our pace, then we buckled back down and got after it". The Huskies have been a dominant force both in the tournament and regular season as they went undefeated this year and are a consensus pick to appear in their fifth consecutive national championship game. "Some of the characteristics Arizona State has we played against in the Big Ten but in terms of maybe how they defend, top-to-bottom, and the way they do it, nobody in the Big Ten mirrors that exactly".