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March 18, 2013

Wolverines excited by tournament seeding

The Michigan basketball team, along with a small group of family, friends and close well-wishers, watched the Selection Show festivities in a ball room inside the Crisler Center.

There wasn't a question of if the Wolverines would be among the 68 teams who will have the opportunity to play for the national championship. The team was more concerned with where it would be seeded, who the competition would be and where the games would be played.

When the Wolverines' seed scrolled across the screen - No. 4 playing South Dakota State in Auburn Hills, Mich. - the players and coached clapped and hugged. But there was no raucous celebration, like 2011 or 2009.

Senior captain Josh Bartelstein can remember more nerve-wracking Selection Sunday viewings - and this was certainly a better feeling.

"You're less nervous, because you're not biting your nails hoping to get in," Bartelstein said. "It shows the program has come a long way and that we've put in a lot of hard work. We want our program to expect to be in it, so we don't have to have the big selection shows. This is what Michigan is going to be and where it's going to stay. We want a high seed because we're trying to win a national championship.

"Being in the NCAA Tournament is a huge opportunity, and playing close to home is huge. That's more important than any seeding. Anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5 was where we were going to be, but playing in Auburn Hills is big."

Sophomore point guard Trey Burke doesn't know that feeling.

In his two years with the Wolverines, the team's resume was too strong to worry about making the field of 68.

But he still recognizes how special the opportunity is.

"It's definitely an honor to play in my second NCAA Tournament," he said. "Like Coach Beilein said, there are a lot of teams that wish they were playing in this tournament, so we're definitely excited to be here, and we're looking forward to playing close to home and the opportunity for fans to come out and support us."

In his first NCAA Tournament experience, Burke witnessed a disappointing upset loss as Ohio defeated Michigan in the round of 64.

This year, the Wolverines won't make the same mistakes.

"We have to stay in the moment and do what we need to do from the beginning," Burke said. "Coach called that a trap game. Ohio was a really good team. We have another game against a team that is coming off a conference championship. We have to be ready for them. We have to go into the game knowing tendencies and execute.

"I definitely I bring that game up to the young guys. It's March Madness. It's hard to not look at the bracket and see where you'd be if you were in the Elite Eight or who you could potentially play in the Sweet 16. It's our job as leaders to tell them to take each game one at a time and not look ahead. Everyone has the same goals as we do."

Although this is the third consecutive NCAA Tournament for Michigan, there are several key contributors who will be making their first March Madness appearance.

Freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht were in high school or prep school last season, dreaming of someday playing in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's definitely very exciting," Robinson said. "Sitting up there watching the TV and thinking back about how many times I've watched it. It's my first time being in it. But hearing all the stories about the tournament and seeing so many things, it's definitely an exciting time for me. I grew up watching Selection Sunday. I'm blessed to have this opportunity, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help my team. I'll never forget this moment. It's my first go-around as a freshman, and not everyone gets this opportunity. I'm happy."

Although the Wolverines are 6-6 in their last 12 games, they have had some big moments down the stretch, including wins over Michigan State and Ohio State.

Can Michigan make a run?

"I'm confident we can do that," Robinson said. "We have to go out and continue to do what we do, and things will fall our way. We're a team that is bound to make some runs, because we haven't played the best basketball of our season yet."


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