Tipping Off: Michigan talked Super Bowl on way to Sweet 16
When Michigan was slumping earlier in the season, the coach started thinking Super Bowl, not Final Four.
John Beilein conjured up the highlight-reel catch that Patriots receiver Julian Edelman made during New England's game-tying drive in the Super Bowl, and said the Wolverines should keep that sort of play - an outlier, as he called it - in mind.
''The point with the Super Bowl catch was that Edelman, he willed that catch,'' Beilein said Wednesday. ''We have to will stuff to happen. You have to work hard. I really stressed the outlier things, too.''
Michigan's road from the bubble to the Sweet 16 continues Thursday night with a game against third-seeded Oregon.
Since the Super Bowl, the Wolverines are 12-2, including a sweep through the Big Ten tournament that secured their spot in the NCAAs.
Derrick Walton Jr., has averaged nearly 20 points a game and the Wolverines have shot better than 50 percent from the floor.
The key to the turnaround?
''When you have great kids to work with, they'll believe and you they trust you,'' the coach said.
Other things to watch for in Thursday's Sweet 16 games:
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR: They both could be holding Player of the Year trophies at the end of the year. And yet, when the NBA draft rolls around, they will likely wait a long time to hear their names called.
Purdue vs. Kansas features a matchup of two of the season's best players: Caleb Swanigan of the Boilermakers and Frank Mason III of the Jayhawks.
Most of the current mock drafts have Swanigan going in the lower part of the first round and Mason teetering somewhere between the first and second rounds. It's the latest in a long string of evidence showing that the best college players don't necessarily look like the best pro prospects.
Purdue coach Matt Painter calls Swanigan, a 6-foot-9 forward, a ''poster child for today's player in terms of going to the draft, listening to what NBA people do and then improving on the things that NBA people told him he needs to improve on.'' Painter said Swanigan's improvement in shooting, fitness and rebounding have improved his stock.
Mason is averaging nearly 21 points as a senior this year. His main drawback is size. He's only 5-11. Still, coach Bill Self called Mason, who had academic issues coming out of high school, ''the steal of that draft class nationally.''
YOU LOOK FAMILIAR: One reason Xavier is a regular at the NCAA Tournament and, for that matter, in the Sweet 16: Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Miller coached the Musketeers for five seasons before he left in 2009 for Arizona. This is the second Sweet-16 meeting in three years between the teams.
''I wish it was different, but it isn't,'' said Miller, who took Xavier to the Sweet 16 his last two seasons at the Cincinnati school. ''And now that I've said that, the focus clearly is on both teams, the players, the great players on both teams and I think both programs vying to stay alive and trying to advance.''
Xavier coach Chris Mack was Miller's assistant back in the day. He's led the team to the second weekend four times in the last eight years. More often than not, the Musketeers have been portrayed as an underdog. They're an 11 seed this year.
Mack: ''You're only an underdog if you feel like you're the lesser team. And I don't feel that way about our guys and I don't think they feel that way about each other.''
ANOTHER COMEBACK: Gonzaga's 7-1 center, Przemek Karnowski, had a less-than-dominating first weekend of the tournament but the Bulldogs won anyway. All in all, a much better situation than last season.
Karnowski missed most of last season after back surgery, and during much of that time, resuming day-to-day functions were more a priority than returning to the court.
''Initially it was just, we've got to help this kid somehow just get back to normal activity, a normal life where he can get up out of bed,'' coach Mark Few said. ''And it was a struggle to fit a 7-foot, 300-plus-pound guy into a car and get from point A to point B.''
Karnowski, who had nine and 10 points in Gonzaga's wins over South Dakota State and Northwestern last week, said the long road back from his injury deepened his appreciation for hoops. The Bulldogs play fourth-seeded West Virginia on Thursday.
He said he had trouble ''just walking, preparing my own food, getting out of bed stuff like that. So it was tough for me because I always been kind of close to sports.
''It was sad for me, but at the same time I had a great support system, with my coaches, my parents,'' he said. ''All my teammates, they were there for me whenever I needed them. And it was huge for me just to be there and in that position. My position wasn't the best, but they were always there for me.''