NCAA March Madness Tournament: What to Watch as Round of 64 Begins

As one member of Michigan’s famed Fab Five exhorted the Wolverines from the stands at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, another member coached the team into the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

Jalen Rose flexed, shouted and raised his arms throughout as Michigan coach Juwan Howard, Rose’s former teammate on a squad that reached back-to-back NCAA championship games in the early 1990s, led the 11th-seeded Wolverines to a 75-63 victory over No. 6 seed Colorado State. The Wolverines (18-14) will face either No. 3 Tennessee or No. 14 Longwood in a South Regional round of 32 game on Saturday.

Howard was coaching in just his second game since serving a five-game suspension at the conclusion of the regular season, a punishment for slapping a Wisconsin assistant in the head after a game on Feb. 20. Michigan lost to Indiana in its first game of the Big Ten tournament last week.

Michigan’s win meant that, for the sixth straight tournament, a No. 11 seed had knocked off a No. 6 seed, though oddsmakers had favored the Wolverines anyway. Michigan, which peaked at No. 4 in The Associated Press poll early in the regular season, has won at least one game in six straight tournaments.

The Wolverines trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, in which they missed all seven of their shots from beyond the arc, but roared back in the second half, outscoring the Rams, 46-27. Michigan shot 4 for 7 from deep in the second half.

Asked during a television interview what he told his players at halftime, Howard said: “Get back to our habits. Defensively, we got to do a better job against that 3-point line. We also have to take our time. We gave them too many possessions, nine turnovers, as well as overall they sped us up. What’s been our meat and potatoes is our inside play, and our guys really rose together, led by Hunter Dickinson.”

Dickinson, Michigan’s 7-foot-1 sophomore center, finished with 21 points and six rebounds as the Wolverines outscored the Rams 34-16 in the paint. The graduate student guard Eli Brooks added 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, including a jumper to put Michigan up 70-60 with just under two minutes remaining.

Michigan played without point guard DeVante’ Jones, who is in the concussion protocol and could return Saturday, but the freshman point guard Frankie Collins stepped up with a big performance, notching 14 points with 6 rebounds and 2 assists. The Wolverines shot 19 for 22 from the free-throw line.

Michigan forced Colorado State, which entered Thursday’s game averaging 10 turnovers, into committing 11 of them, and outscored the Rams 15-11 in fast-break points.

Michigan became only the fourth team this season to beat Colorado State (25-6), which also fell to San Diego State, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Wyoming. Under coach Niko Medved, the Rams have won 20 or more games in three straight seasons.

No. 13 South Dakota State entered its matchup with fourth-seeded Providence in Buffalo riding one of the most potent offenses in college basketball.

It was averaging 86.7 points per game, second only to Gonzaga, while shooting 45 percent from 3-point range.

But then the Jackrabbits ran into the Friars and some old-fashioned Big East physicality and toughness. Providence contained South Dakota State, 66-57, while holding it to 39 percent shooting and 30 percent from behind the arc. The Friars (26-5) also kept the Jackrabbits off the foul line, limiting them to 6 for 9 shooting on free throws.

“I thought our players were determined, I thought our players were focused, I thought our guys had incredible understanding of what they were trying to do and our will to win,” Providence coach Ed Cooley, the Big East coach of the year, said in a television interview. “We always heard about how good they were. Our players feel that they’re a good basketball team as well.”

Providence, which won the Big East regular-season title, rebounded from a blowout loss to Creighton in the Big East tournament semifinals last Friday at Madison Square Garden to win its first NCAA tournament game since 2016.

“It means the world to us,” Cooley said. “We haven’t been fortunate in the tournament, and this is just another step for us to continue to improve as an organization.”

Providence slowed down the pace of the game and led by as many as 14 points in the second half before South Dakota State trimmed the Friars’ lead to one possession. But Providence’s Jared Bynum was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer and made all three of his free throws to push the lead to 63-57. He finished with 12 points, while Al Durham and Noah Horchler scored 13 apiece.

The Friars, one of six Big East teams in the field, will face the winner of Thursday’s Midwest Regional game between No. 5 Iowa and No. 5 12 Richmond.

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