By Michael Williams
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — Two schools with proud basketball traditions will square off in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Michigan and Louisville tip off on Sunday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Michigan Wolverines are making the 22nd official NCAA Tournament appearance. Five appearances have been removed from the record books due to NCAA violations. Officially, the Wolverines will be playing for their 13th appearance in the Sweet 16. They have an official NCAA Tournament Record of 45-21.
This is a rematch between two schools and coaches that played in the 2013 NCAA championship game in Atlanta, Georgia.
Louisville won that matchup for its third NCAA Championship. The Cardinals are making their 42nd NCAA Tournament appearance. In that time, they’ve compiled a 75-42 record, including 10 Final Four appearances.
Their coach, Rick Pitino has coached in 21 NCAA Tournaments, seven Final Fours and has two NCAA titles on his resume.
Michigan comes off a hot shooting game, with 16 baskets from behind the arc, a school NCAA tournament record, in its first-round victory over Oklahoma State. “One of the things for our team is we’re so unselfish, especially with how well Derrick (Walton Jr.) is leading our team on the offensive end is something special,” said senior swingman Zak Irvin.
Confidence was key in Michigan’s success from behind the arc. “When we get the ball and shoot it, we plan for it to go in,” said junior forward D. J. Wilson. “We don’t second guess ourselves.”
The Cardinals, however, have seen their own success from behind the arc this season. .Heading into the tournament, their 228 3-point baskets are the most the team has hit in the past three years.
Louisville is one of the nation’s leaders in perimeter defense, ranking 19th in the nation while holding teams to 30.9 percent shooting.
The Cardinals rank 18th in the nation in rebounding and 14th in offensive rebounds. Michigan coach John Beilein says limiting turnovers will be key for the Wolverines. “If you out-rebound us by six or seven and we have seven less turnovers, we all have the same possessions,” said Beilein.
Michigan players seemed to suggest that they’ve moved on from the frightening aborted takeoff on the way to the recent Big Ten conference tournament. “What happened at the airport, I don’t think that has a lot to do with how we’re performing on the court,” Wilson said.
Beilein believes the experience has affected the outlook of his team. “That was one of the significant moments of the season that got us to go to another level maybe of appreciation and a sense of urgency of how your life can change quickly,” he said.
This will be the third time that Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Beilein have coached against each other in the NCAA Tournament. Pitino has come out victorious in both matchups, in a regional championship game in 2005 when Beilein was at West Virginia, and in the 2013 national championship game.