Michigan sophomore and Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke is seeking a much different result than the Wolverines early exit from last year’s NCAA Tournament.
No. 4 Michigan face the No. 13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits Thursday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the second round of the South Region.
The winner plays either No. 5 VCU or No. 12 Akron on Saturday.
Burke and the Wolverines struggled in their first game of last year’s tournament to another No. 13 seed in Ohio, when the then freshman shot 5-for-15 from the field for 16 points in a 65-60 loss. Tim Hardaway Jr. also shot a meager 5-for-14 for 14 points.
Looking for redemption, 26-7 Michigan improved their overall record and were the top ranked team in the country for the first time since 1992, but went through a difficult 1-3 spell midway through Big Ten play.
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One of the favorites when conference tournaments started, the Wolverines eventually lost to Wisconsin 68-59 in the semifinals, with Burke scoring 19 points with seven assists, and Hardaway Jr. chipping in 14 points. Michigan went 3-for-13 from 3-point range, and missed seven free throws in the loss.
Even with with those shooting woes, the Wolverines are still the 27th best offense in the nation, scoring 75.2 points per game, and are ninth in field goal percentage.
The Jackrabbits earned a share of the Summit League regular season title, and coasted through most of the conference tournament, before beating in-state rival North Dakota State 73-67 last week.
Senior and team-leading scorer Nate Wolters pumped in 27 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Jordan Dykstra contributed 18 points and seven boards, for SDSU’s second straight trip to the tournament.
Wolters was also the high-man in the Jackrabbits 68-60 first round exit last year against Baylor, with 19 points.
SDSU has the 36th best offense in the country, netting 73.9 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the field.
The game tips-off at 7:15 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Michigan is favored by 11 points.
Over/Under: 141 points
Prediction: The game could be a shootout early, but the Wolverines have too much quickness along the perimeter for SDSU to keep up for long. Look for Burke and Hardaway to post huge numbers in a Michigan victory.
Predicted Score: Michigan 75, South Dakota State 61