By Derek Harper | @RealDerekHarper
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — The third-seeded Tennessee Volunteers and No. 11 Michigan Wolverines will meet in a second-round game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at 5:15 p.m. Saturday evening at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Michigan (18-14) will play for a spot in the South Region semifinals, which would be the second straight round-of-16 appearance and a third in four tournaments. Tennessee (27-7), which has won 13 of 14 games, last reached a regional semifinal in 2019.
For Michigan, the availability of injured graduate guard DeVante Jones will be a game-time decision according to coach Juwan Howard. Jones missed Michigan’s first-round victory over Colorado State after suffering a concussion in practice last Monday. He has averaged 10.7 points with 4.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds. Jones practiced with the team Friday, according to his coach, and teammates, including sophomore guard Jace Howard, were glad to have him back.
“It was great obviously to see a familiar face, somebody we have been in the trenches with all season,” Jace Howard said. “Just to see that he was healthy again because he was in concussion protocol and it’s not easy for a lot of guys, so it was great to see him back. Felt like we were a full team again and made us ready for tomorrow even more.”
The Volunteers feel they’re prepared for whatever lineup Michigan throws at them, whether it’s with DeVonte or freshman guard Frankie Collins at the point. Collins, who has averaged 29 points, became an important factor in Jones’ absence in Michigan’s 75-63 first-round victory. He scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Collins also added two assists, a steal and six rebounds. Jace Howard emphasized Collins’ effort, how that should continue going forward and the chance of getting Jones back.
“I think it adds more to our arsenal,” Howard said. “Obviously yesterday Frankie had a good game, stepped us for us big and I know that’s going to continue not just tomorrow but the rest of the season and I think having more options as a team is going to make us more dangerous in this month.”
While Jones brings a versatile skillset, Collins showed potential and what the future will likely hold for him and the Wolverines.
Tennessee freshman guard Zakai Zeigler spoke about the possibility of Michigan getting Jones back, and how he would cover him.
“Same way as I guard every other guard,” Zeigler said. “Keep the ball in front, contain as much as we can and do what we need to do. That’s really it. Contain the ball.”
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes was asked about Jones’ status and how it affects his team’s preparation.
“Yes, we will make sure we are aware of their players from a personal standpoint and knowing that he could play,” Barnes said.
Tennessee junior guard Josiah-Jordan James explained that the Volunteers expect Michigan to put its best possible team on the floor, which would include Jones.
“We expect them to be at their best so we expect Jones to play,” James said. “We have scouted him and scouted everybody they play. We expect him to be at full strength and the scouting report we have those guys — we know what they like to do. We’ve just got to do what we practice.”