December 12, 2013

McCormick on Michigan-Arizona

ESPN college basketball analyst Tim McCormick sees the Arizona game providing a huge opportunity for John Beilein's team to secure an eye-catching win against a top-ranked opponent. At the same time, McCormick knows it won't be easy.

Here's McCormick…

On the contest against the No. 1 Wildcats: "I think it's going to be an extremely close game. There is a reason why Arizona is the No. 1 team in the country. They have played really good teams, and they've won.

"They're extremely tough on the defensive end. They have very few perceived weaknesses. I think Michigan will have a chance to win this game, but they've got to play really well, and a lot better than they've played on big stages so far."

On the difference playing at Crisler Center makes, as opposed to at Iowa State or Duke: "I would say right now, Arizona is a better team than Michigan. They have better big players and more experienced guards. If they played on a neutral site, you'd have to give Arizona a pretty solid advantage.

"But this will be Michigan's best crowd of the year. There is just a lot of hype and excitement about having a team come in that's ranked No. 1, nationally prominent. There is a lot of hype about them, and I think Michigan fans are going to come out and it's going to be a very loud, obnoxious and rowdy crowd.

"You're going to have pure basketball fans. They've got this game circled on their calendar. I've talked to a lot of people that bought tickets long ago, even before they knew how good Arizona was. This is a match-up you want to see.

"Other times, you get casual viewers, you get fans that just like basketball and come. This is a game that's going to draw the really passionate fans, and that's a big advantage for Michigan. That's why I think Michigan has a pretty good chance to win this game."

On what a win over a No. 1-ranked team could do for Michigan down the road: "It's hard to project seedings right now. We don't know who Michigan is going to play and how they're going to do in the Big Ten, but whatever body of work you have, beating the No. 1 team in the country has to move you up one spot on the line.

"If you're a No. 6 seed, I think you've got a really good chance to move up to a five seed. It's hard to quantify that at this point, but wherever you're at, by beating the No. 1 team, it's got to move you up a spot. It's got to give you a better seeding.

"Then also, this isn't going to keep Michigan out of the NCAA Tournament, but it certainly could have a lot of psychological impact on a young team. There are some guys who have never played a prominent role in a really big game before. Being a starter, being featured, there are a lot of guys who really want to test themselves on a big stage.

"Who knows? This could be the game that ignites Mitch McGary to the power and the dynamic play he had during the NCAA Tournament. I don't remember what it was that ignited him last year, but he has not played, so far, at the level he played in the Tournament last year.

"Maybe that's because of his back, but a big-time game against great players can do nothing but help the psyche and the swagger of this team. In the Charlotte game and the Duke game, I just didn't sense that Michigan was playing with a huge swagger, like 'We are the best, and nobody's going to stop us.'

"They haven't played that way yet. But a game of this magnitude could certainly take a couple of these guys and boost their confidence."

On the key match-ups in the game: "I'm really excited to watch Nik Stauskas and Nick Johnson. I've watched Nick Johnson since he was a junior in high school. He is such a unique blend of athleticism and skill.

"He's a very, very good defender. If you let him get started in transition, he will make some dynamic plays. That's a really critical match-up. Can Stauskas move without the ball? Can they get him some open three-pointers?

"Nick Johnson is the kind of guy who is going to say, 'Oh, okay. I remember watching you in the Tournament. I don't know a lot about you, other than what my scouting report is saying, but they tell me you're one of the best shooters in the country. I am going to lock you up.' That is going to a really fun match-up to watch."

On whether other teams will try to mimic Duke's box-and-one defense on the U-M sharpshooter: "Absolutely. Without question. I think that happens in every sport. I believe that a big part of why Michigan football struggled after the Michigan State game is that Mark Dantonio found a recipe. He found some blitzing packages and some ways to defend Michigan's football team, that we started seeing a lot more of the rest of the way.

"I definitely think you're going to see a lot fewer wide-open threes by Stauskas, because people are just going to say, 'Someone else is going to have to beat us. We are not going to give him any air space.'"

On who needs to emerge for Michigan to overcome in a game like this: "The obvious answer, to me, would be Glenn Robinson. He's certainly capable. I don't think anybody would question his effort.

"He looks healthy. I know he's capable of being more productive. I'm going to say Robinson, because I'd like to see him get a little more aggressive to the rim. He seems like he's roaming on the perimeter a little bit too much. I'd like to see him attack a little more in transition.

"Not that he's settling for jump shots, but I think he's capable of more. He's the kind of guy who, if you get a breakout game, it could really change his approach and his confidence."

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