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John Niyo, Matt Charboneau and James Hawkins talk Big Ten title game and NCAA bids for Michigan State, Michigan. The Detroit News

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James Hawkins, Matt Charboneau, John Niyo and Bob Wojnowski predict how far the Wolverines will progress in the NCAA Tournament, which begins Thursday against Montana (9:20 p.m./TNT,950).

James Hawkins: Michigan isn’t riding a wave of momentum into the Big Dance like it was a year ago but still got a favorable draw by being in the West Region where Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed. The Wolverines will take down Montana in a repeat of last year’s first-round matchup and will find a way to squeeze out a win against Nevada. But the offensive droughts that have plagued Michigan will resurface and prove costly in a defensive battle against Texas Tech in the Sweet 16.

Matt Charboneau: The Wolverines got swept by Michigan State in three games but still got a more favorable draw than their rival as the No. 2 in the West with Gonzaga as the 1 seed. The run for Michigan starts with Montana for the second straight season and the result should be the same as the Wolverines will advance to take on either No. 7 Nevada or No. 10 Florida. Neither will be easy to get by, but Michigan is the better team and if it’s shooting the ball well, the Wolverines will get to the Sweet 16. It’s there in the second weekend where things will start to get tough in Michigan’s quest to get back to the national championship game. No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 6 Buffalo are both tough teams and the MAC champions are a veteran team that could give the Wolverines problems. It’s there where Michigan’s season ends, with a tough loss to Buffalo a game shy of a matchup with top-seeded Gonzaga.

 

John Niyo: Michigan's still lacking the experience that helped steer it to the Final Four a year ago. But outside of Michigan State, few teams have been able to take advantage of that. Nevada, the No. 7 seed, could be one of those teams — the Wolfpack is the second-most experienced team in the country, per KenPom. I'll take the Wolverines to escape that second-round game, but empty possessions will be a killer in a Sweet 16 matchup with Texas Tech, a team that plays defense as well as anybody. 

Bob Wojnowski: Michigan landed a manageable draw, and Gonzaga is the lowest-rated No. 1 seed. But in return, the Wolverines will have to go out West if they reach the Sweet 16, and their early rounds could be tricky. They beat Montana in the Tournament opener last year, although it was a tedious affair. After that, they could face a daunting 7 seed in Nevada, and a difficult 3 seed in Texas Tech. John Beilein has to get his offense under control — looking at you, Jordan Poole — and he often does this time of year. But Gonzaga is due, and will stop Michigan in the Elite Eight.

West Region

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Montana

When: Thursday, 9:20 p.m 

Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa

TV/radio: TNT/WWJ 950

Records: Michigan 28-6, Montana 26-8

Next up: Winner faces winner between No. 7 Nevada and No. 10 Florida

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