Michigan's unlikely season takes Route 3 to the NCAA Tournament second round

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman kept MI in the game when Oklahoma State jumped out to a small lead. Outside of people that might have had Oklahoma State moving on in their bracket, most people seem to be content with the final results of the game. This is Michigan State's 20th consecutive tournament appearance under Tom Izzo. Their pace rating of 72.9 is the fourth fastest of any team in the tournament, while Michigan's 63.7 is the second slowest. Michigan's big man duo can do damage in the paint, but their ability to knock down the three ball will really stress the Cowboys already vulnerable defense. He burned the Cowboys with 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

With 16:49 left in the first half, sophomore forward Moritz Wagner checked out after picking up his second foul. In 2013, Beilein's MI team had a 35-23 first-half lead, but lost 82-76 in the national championship game. That's a pretty good rebound percentage. But the Wolverines enter the first round against a strong opponent, an Oklahoma State team with a talented point guard of its own: Jawun Evans, who has been averaging 19 points and 6.2 assists.

"We came into the game prepared to drive it downhill", U-M assistant coach Jeff Meyer said. After an up-and-down season they finished the season tied for 5th in a mediocre year for the Big Ten.

Penn State, with five underclassmen qualified for nationals, will be the favorite after going 14-0 in dual meets and crushing Oklahoma State 27-13 in Stillwater.

This was only year one. That, believe it or not has been a storyline to the Oklahoma State season.

Evans hit a deep three at the buzzer to pull the final score within one, but the game had already been decided. The Wolverines are better at defending the three-pointer in the past 12 games (30.2%), and that will be essential in this game. Thanks be to Evans for that - it's unbelievable how much space he's able to clear for shooters when he snakes his way into the lane.

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Rebounds: Team (29.0); D.J. Wilson 5.4; Derrick Walton Jr. "They got off to a rough start, kind of like we did, but not bad as we did".

MI is much more careful, preferring to work the ball around the perimeter and wait for an opportunity. Irvin had another pivotal game with 16 points (6-11 FG, 4-6 3-point) and three assists while playing all 40 minutes.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: The Michigan Wolverines pep band performs during the Big Ten Basketball Tournament Championship game between the Wolverines and the Wisconsin Badgers at Verizon Center on March 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. "I'm one of those typical coaches who doesn't stop to smell the roses enough, does not appreciate the day", Beilein said. Evans' estimated assist percentage is 42.9, meaning he is involved in almost half of his opponents' buckets while he's on the floor.

MI comes in as the higher seed at No. 7.

It was the last game for Cowboy seniors Phil Forte III and Leyton Hammonds. They will host Kent State on Thursday, which promises to be an exciting prospect for Wolverine fans.

Right now, Bovada has MI -3 with an over/under of 154.

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