With a 91-54 victory over IUPUI on Monday night, the Michigan basketball team moved on to the second round of the 2012 NIT Season Tip-Off, matching up against Cleveland State on Tuesday.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will earn a coveted spot in the semifinal round of the tournament, which takes place in New York’s Madison Square Garden next week.
In the early game Monday at Crisler Arena, the Vikings needed overtime to beat Bowling Green, 79-73. Cleveland State was led by forward Tim Kamczyc, who scored 21 points to go along with seven rebounds. The Vikings also got a big game from forward Mason Marlin, who notched a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Even with the performances of the Cleveland State’s forwards on Monday, Tuesday figures to have a heavy emphasis on the backcourts of each team.
Cleveland State’s leading scorer is 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard Charlie Lee, who plays alongside sophomore guard Sebastian Douglas. Together, the duo has averaged 30 points per game so far this season, which is more than a third of the team’s total points. And it’s not just points — as a team, the Vikings have 37 assists on the season, 17 of which, belong to Lee.
It’s hard to make a straight-up backcourt comparison with the Wolverines (2-0) since they technically start four guards, but the main positional battles will be with whatever two of the four guards are tasked with guarding Lee and Douglas.
Those two guards could be sophomore Trey Burke and freshman Glenn Robinson III, who could both have stopped playing at halftime on Monday and had big games. When the first half ended, Burke and Robinson had a combined 29 of Michigan’s 45 points, and Burke had seven of Michigan’s nine assists.
Burke ended up setting a career-high with nine assists to go along with his 22 points, while Robinson scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
Tuesday still presents the possibility of a trap game for several reasons for Michigan, the biggest of which being that the Wolverines will play back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Michigan won’t have its usual rest days, which means fatigue could be a factor, but perhaps more importantly, it means Michigan won’t have its usual preparation days.
“You’ve been practicing hard and you have two teams going, but the carrot of New York City waiting for the winner will hopefully get enough people through it,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “Both Michigan and Cleveland State have to be very careful tomorrow about how long people play because two games back-to-back, nobody is used to that.”
For a team that has played sharper and with more energy in the second half than in the first half for every exhibition and game this season, losing that preparation day could be big tomorrow.
“Just trying to finish strong as hard as we can, and I think we just need to do a better job of having that intensity the whole game,” said junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. “It’s kind of hard for both teams to get going in the first half, the anxieties are there, so just trying to do a good job of having that momentum going the whole game.”