According to BetMGM, Michigan has the third highest odds to win the NCAA Tournament at +600. The Wolverines went 20-4 while winning the Big Ten regular season title. In addition, Michigan is considered one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the country. However, the Wolverines’ title hopes could no longer come true due to Isaiah Livers’ foot injury. Who can step up in place of Michigan’s second leading scorer?
Ranked sixth in offensive efficiency, Michigan pours in 76.2 points per contest. Also, the Wolverines are 16th with an average scoring margin of +10.6. Keeping Michigan’s point differential in mind, Michigan had the 14th toughest strength of schedule. The Wolverines are also efficient shooting 48.3%, which ranks 15th in the land. Led by three players shooting over 40% from three, Michigan shoots 38.7% from three.
Michigan’s lead scorer is the talented freshman Hunter Dickinson. At 7-foot-1, the center averages 14.2 points while shooting 59.9%. Dickinson has nifty footwork for a big man, capable of shifting his way to his desired shot. Franz Wagner is the do-it-all guard averaging 12.8 points while shooting 49.3% and 38.4% from three. Wagner is a tall, lengthy guard at 6-foot-7 that is a matchup nightmare. He is an NBA talent that can score at all three levels with ease.
According to Kenpom, Michigan is 7th in defensive efficiency. Wolverine opponents only score 65.4 points per contest while shooting 39.4%. Further, they are elite at defending the paint by holding foes to 42.3% on two point shots. Michigan’s opponent two point percentage is third in college basketball. On the other hand, the Wolverines only force 10.2 turnovers per game, this ranks 338th.
Isaiah Livers’ Injury
The injury of Livers’ could be the only thing stopping Michigan from a Final Four run. Livers averages 13.1 points, 6 rebounds, shoots 45.7% and 43.1% from three. This is a major loss on the offensive end as he is their second leading scorer. Livers has a stress fracture in his right foot and will be out indefinitely. On March 12, the senior forward’s injury was a rumor on social media. Then, Michigan broke the news right before the Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
📰 WOLVERINE NEWS 📰
Juwan Howard announced Isaiah Livers will be out indefinitely after an MRI following yesterday's Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal game against Maryland revealed a stress injury to his right foot.
— Michigan Men's Basketball (@umichbball) March 13, 2021
It is unclear when Livers could return. Some are speculating the earliest he could return is in the Sweet Sixteen. Regardless, Michigan will need some players to step up in the scoring department. Mike Smith is an experienced senior guard averaging 9.1 points this season. Smith is a grad transfer coming from Columbia. In the 2019-20 season, Smith poured in 22.8 points per game at Columbia. Clearly the transfer guard is capable of scoring, he could step up for Michigan.
Another player who is capable of scoring more is Chaundee Brown averaging 7.7 points. Like Smith, Brown is a transfer from Wake Forest. At Wake Forest, Brown averaged 12 points over the 2019-20 and 2018-19 seasons. The Wolverines have talented weapons who can fill the hole left by Livers’ absence.
In the East region, Michigan is the No.1 seed. The first round should be a fairly easy game, since a sixteen seed has only won once in the history of March Madness. Looming in the Round of 32, a very good eight or nine seed will await the Wolverines. LSU is the No.8 seed and have the fifth offense in the land. The No.9 seed is St. Bonaventure, which is 25th in Kenpom’s team rankings.
The second round could be very tough for Michigan, but they should be the favorite to win. Florida State, Texas and Alabama would be the toughest teams likely remaining in the region. Even without Livers, Michigan is a really good basketball team. They have enough talent to make the Final Four with or without Livers. However, to go through a team like Gonzaga to win a national title, they must have Livers.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom, NCAA and Team Rankings.