He’s never been there before, but he’s not nervous.
DeShawn Sims doesn’t get nervous. Well, at least not before and during games. And when the Michigan men’s basketball team, the No. 10 seed in the South region, faces No. 7 seed Clemson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament tonight, Sims won’t be worried.
But on Sunday, while waiting for Michigan’s name to be announced during the selection show, the junior forward felt more nerves than he has all season. There were no more shots he could make that could change the Wolverines’ outcome. It was out of his hands. He just had to sit and wait.
“They were going to make us wait,” Sims said. “We haven’t been there in 11 years. They tried to tease us a little bit. It’s just fortunate we were still able to get in.”
When Michigan’s name was finally announced, Sims jumped into the arms of his teammates. At that moment, it didn’t matter what team Michigan faced in the first round.
The feeling lasted just a few moments before reporters swarmed the players, inquiring about they knew about the 24th-ranked Tigers, who finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Behind a group of media pushing its way to interview Sims, fifth-year guard C.J. Lee yelled, “ACC, we’ll take it.”
Sunday night, exuberance filled Crisler Arena as the Wolverines’ celebrated making the tournament. But Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t content with just making the Big Dance.
“Every opponent you have at this time is going to be a tough opponent,” Beilein said. “I don’t care what seed you are, it is going to be a tough opponent. Clemson is no different. But we aren’t pleased just to be there, we are going to do our best to win the game.”
Beilein said he has spent the last few days breaking down film of the Tigers.
At Monday’s press conference, Beilein said his team will need to take care of the ball to counteract the Tigers’ full-court press.
Clemson averages 17.3 forced turnovers per game, due in large part to its defensive strategy.
“Against a team like this, if you turn it over they are going to get easy baskets,” Beilein said. “But when they do press you, you do have more open court to work with to get open shots.”
Sophomore guard Kelvin Grady, who hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in a game since Feb. 26 against Purdue, could see increased playing time because his skills are well-suited to break the press.
The Wolverines have mixed results against the press this season. In the last 23 seconds of regulation at Northwestern, Michigan’s guards coughed up the ball three times against a trap press. It almost cost the Wolverines the game.
Two weeks later, Michigan tore apart Minnesota’s full-court press, which led to open shots for Wolverine sharpshooters.
A key to many of Michigan’s biggest wins this season has been knocking down open 3-pointers. The Wolverines shot over 40 percent behind the arc in big wins over Duke, Illinois, Purdue and both times against Minnesota.
Even if Michigan doesn’t shoot the ball effectively, its distinct style of play could give Clemson fits.
“Our style is so unique, with the 1-3-1 and the zone,” fifth-year senior guard David Merritt said. “Especially if you’ve never played against it and don’t have a lot of time to prepare for it, we could be trouble, and hopefully, that will be the case.”
That was the case in wins against No. 6 seed UCLA, No. 2 seed Duke and even in an eight-point loss to No. 1 seed Connecticut.
That preparation is probably a reason Sims isn’t nervous heading into the biggest game of his career.
“I’m just anxious,” he said.