Resetting the Midwest region: Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky and Tennessee

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At times forgotten because of Nik Stauskas' emergence, Glenn Robinson III has been a consistent offensive presence for the Wolverines. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Glenn Robinson III

You may not have watched every game of the NCAA tournament, but don't worry: We did. We'll tell you how each team got to the Sweet 16 and why they will or won't make the Final Four.

Dates: Friday, Sunday

Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Sweet 16: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS; No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky, 9:45 p.m. ET on CBS

Elite 8: TBD

Other regional resets:East (Virginia vs. Michigan State; Iowa State vs. Connecticut) | South (Florida vs. UCLA; Stanford vs. Dayton) | West (Arizona vs. San Diego State; Wisconsin vs. Baylor) 

Michigan Wolverines

How they got here: 

The Wolverines dispatched No. 15 Wofford 57-40 in the second round. They then kept a safe distance from No. 7 Texas in a 79-65 win in the third round.

Why they'll make the Final Four:

Michigan seemed to play to its strengths while also mitigating its weaknesses during its first two tournament games, stiffening a bit on defense and getting inspired play from Jordan Morgan to offset any issues on the glass. The Wolverines held both opponents – Wofford and Texas – to under 40 percent shooting. Morgan, the 6-foot-8 senior, posted a pair of double-doubles after collecting 10 or more rebounds just three times previously during the season. If the defense and rebounding is merely adequate, Michigan's offense can take over. And the 1.39 points per possession they scored against Texas was the Wolverines' best showing since Dec. 7 against Houston Baptist (1.65). Michigan has faced plenty of zone defenses lately, against Illinois in the Big Ten tournament and then the Longhorns last weekend, and should be fine for going up against Baylor and potentially Louisville. With conference player of the year Nik Stauskas, the Wolverines have a driven star capable of shooting them to a win every night.

Why they won't make the Final Four:

Michigan isn't a terrific rebounding team, and Tennessee very much is. The Volunteers were fourth nationally in rebound percentage (56.2) and fifth in offensive rebound percentage (39.9). That plus Tennessee's meager 10.6 turnovers per game means the Wolverines at minimum may not get many chances to get out and run, to create transition opportunities that lead to easy shots and get the offense in rhythm. Michigan battled Texas to a relative draw there, but can that happen again? And while the Wolverines showed some signs of consistent defense on the first weekend, those were more exceptions than the rule for them this season.

- By Brian Hamilton

Tennessee, led by Jarnell Stokes (left) and Jeronne Maymon, has already won three games in this tournament. (Chuck Burton/AP)

Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Volunteers

How they got here: 

The Volunteers are the lone First Four team left dancing. They defeated Iowa on March 19 to get into the second round, then upset No. 6 UMass, 86-67, before knocking off No. 14 Mercer in the third round, 83-63.

Why they'll make the Final Four:

As's Luke Winn wrote leading into the tournament, the Volunteers are the scariest No. 11 seed of this decade. After an up-and-down season in the SEC, which included two losses to Texas A&M and one to Vanderbilt, Tennessee has found its rhythm in the postseason. Its wins against UMass and Mercer have been some of the most convincing victories of the NCAA tournament. Forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon have been aggressive in the paint and on the boards -- snagging a combined 51 rebounds in Tennessee' second-and-third round games. The Vols match up favorably in the post with any team outside of Kentucky in this region. You also may be surprised to learn that the Volunteers, the second-highest rated team in overall efficiency, are favored to beat Michigan by If they pull the upset, perhaps they can carry that momentum all the way to Texas

Why they won't make the Final Four:

Michigan matches up favorably with Tennessee, offense against defense. The Wolverines are top 10 in three-point shooting, and the Volunteers are outside the top 100 in three-point defense. If Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III can get going from beyond the arc, the Volunteers could see an end to their surprising run. Tennessee also has a very hard time turning its opponents over, which means it'll have fewer opportunities for momentum-changing plays if it finds itself in a hole against Michigan or Kentucky/Louisville. As noted above, the Volunteers don't match up well with Kentucky; and with the way Louisville is playing, no one matches up well with the Cardinals right now. Expect Tennessee's season to end in Indianapolis.

- By David Gardner

Can Russ Smith (2) carry Louisville back to the national championship game? (Greg Nelson/SI)

Russ Smith

Louisville Cardinals

How they got here: 

The Cardinals slid by No. 14 Manhattan 71-64 in the second round and then pulled away from No. 5 Saint Louis 66-51 in the third round.

Why they'll make the Final Four:

Rick Pitino's club is winning with defense again, and it's disruptive enough to push past a couple top 20 offenses that it could face this weekend. Opponents have turned the ball over against Louisville on at least 20 percent of their possessions in every game since Feb. 14. The Cardinals have lost just one game since.

In a bit of a struggle against Pitino-disciple Steve Masiello and Manhattan in the second round, Louisville posted an effective field goal percentage of just 40.0. That's low, but the Cardinals were able to win anyway, and that makes them dangerous for when they are connecting. Likewise, it was encouraging that Russ Smith's struggles against Saint Louis (3-of-10 shooting, 11 points) weren't fatal. Luke Hancock, last year's Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, has averaged 18.5 points in his two tournament games this year, and if he's a threat from long range, that will stretch defenses thin. Kentucky has been better lately but hasn't been entirely efficient with ball movement all year (0.93 assist-to-turnover ratio), and Louisville can unsettle the Wildcats' rhythm. That'll be tougher against Michigan and Tennessee, two careful teams, but Saint Louis committed 18 turnovers against Louisville. The Cardinals can force you into not being who you are. And against Kentucky's ragged transition defense in the regular-season meeting between the teams, the Cardinals held a 26-10 advantage in fast-break points.

Why they won't make the Final Four:

To begin with, they have either a great draw or a horrendous draw in the Sweet 16, depending how you look at it. Playing Kentucky could be great for the added motivation of vengeance after a 73-66 loss at Rupp Arena on Dec. 28. Or it's horrendous, because the Wildcats are surging and have a win over the Cardinals already and did so with Julius Randle spending most of the second half that day on the bench with leg cramps. The Cardinals' pressure won't necessarily compensate for the disadvantage in the paint, where Kentucky had an 18-point advantage in the first meeting. Smith, meanwhile, has hit a shooting slump at an inopportune time, firing at a 13-for-37 clip (35.1 percent) in his last three games, well below his season average of 46.9 percent. And if Louisville moves to the Elite Eight, it either faces another high-rebound, low-turnover opponent on a roll in Tennessee or a high-scoring, high-efficiency team seeking revenge in Michigan – the club the Cardinals downed for the national title a year ago.

- By Brian Hamilton

Julius Randle and the Wildcats stunned previously undefeated Wichita State to reach Indianapolis. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Julius Randle, Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky Wildcats

How they got here: 

The Wildcats eliminated No. 9 Kansas State in the round of 64 with a 56-49 win before handing No. 1 Wichita State its first loss of the season in an absolute classic, 78-76.

Why they'll make the Final Four:

Kentucky has shown some moxie against top-ranked teams over the last two weeks. Big Blue is fresh off shocking the country by beating the unblemished Shockers of Wichita State; and a week earlier the ‘Cats were one shot away from upending top-ranked Florida in the SEC tournament. A big reason for that is Kentucky’s control of the glass: Coach John Calipari’s squad boasted the SEC’s best rebounding offense (40.9 per game) during the regular season, and its offensive rebounding percentage (42.0) is second-best in the country, per Ken Pomeroy. Julius Randle, who has recorded a double-double in six straight games, leads the stout rebounding advantage for Kentucky.

Why they won't make the Final Four:

Teams don’t make a lot of mistakes against the Wildcats. Kentucky’s opponents’ turnover percentage of 16.2 ranks 299th among Division-I teams, per Pomeroy. Even in the win against Wichita State, the Shockers turned the ball over only nine times. Things won’t be easy from the get-go against rival Louisville in the Sweet 16; the Cardinals rank 25th nationally in turnover percentage (15.3). Get past the Cardinals and the Wildcats could face No. 2 seed Michigan and the country’s second-most efficient offense in the Elite 8. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Cardinals and Wolverines faced off for the national championship last year. That’s a tough road to the Final Four for Kentucky.

- By Zac Ellis

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