Why Michigan is an unlikely Cinderella story at the 2022 NCAA Championship

The 11th seed in the NCAA Tournament should always be considered Cinderella; No matter how disappointed they were in the regular season after being given a high pre-season rating, no matter how much Blue Bloods.

Michigan Wolverines’ double-digit seed is Cinderella’s weird blue-blooded squad in March. After disappointing Indiana in the Big Ten in head coach Joan Howard’s first game with the program, Michigan became a force to be reckoned with in a two-game NCAA Tournament after defeating sixth-seeded Colorado and third seed. Tennessee seed.

Michigan was the DraftKings Sportsbook favorite against Colorado State, but it took 15 points to come back to beat the Rams and move forward with the championship. Tennessee was favored by 7.5 points over Wolverine before that game began. The streak continued to shift in favor of the volunteers, especially when DeVante’ Jones, who missed a CSU match due to a concussion, left the game and never came back.

The Wolverines have faced some major adversities this year, but they’ve managed to get through it all up to this point. After finishing sixth in pre-season, the Wolverines struggled all season. Once they came out without a rank in the polls for the first time in December, they never rank again. The star-studded new student class couldn’t move forward, and the senior students who were expected to be major contributors weren’t playing like they were in the past.

With early-season losses to Minnesota, UCF, Seton Hall and Rutgers, I’m starting to settle into that maybe, just maybe this Michigan team might miss the NCAA Championship. But the Wolverines had two really nice wins in February against Purdue and Iowa, where the program can really build some momentum.

Then Wolverine traveled to Madison, Wisconsin.

Howard has been suspended for five games and assistant coach Phil Martelli has been tasked with directing the team for the last five games of the year. Martelli was able to go 3-2, including wins over Ohio State and Michigan State.

This win over the Buckeyes was probably what got Michigan into the NCAA tournament in the first place. Had it not been for that game – a game in which the Wolverines were not only without their coach but also Hunter Dickinson’s best player – they would probably have played for NIT at this point.

But the Wolverines got in, and that’s all that matters. Everything seemed to be fine until Jones had a head injury. He suffered a concussion in practice prior to the start of the NCAA Championships and did not travel with the team to the Round of 64. New points guard Frankie Collins has gone up big, with 14 points and six rebounds against CSU.

Jones returned for the Tennessee game, but eventually had to leave that match due to an illness (perhaps caused by a concussion, as he was hit in the head by Moussa Diabatti early in the game). Collins replaced him again, and while he only got 1 in 4 out of the field against Tennessee, he delivered meaningful minutes by playing a solid defense, collecting solid boards and creating a breakup with his turn.

This team has been through hell and back all season, but somehow they’re 2-0 in the NCAA Championship. Anything can happen in March, which is what makes the tournament great every year. It might be one of the regular majors in college basketball, but nothing is normal in Michigan basketball this season.

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