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Pitt vs. Michigan: Q&A with UM Hoops

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Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Had a chance to do a Q&A with Dylan over at Michigan blog, in advance of Pitt's big game against the Wolverines on Wednesday. Here are his answers to my questions and be sure to check out mine over on his site here.

Cardiac Hill: John Beilein has been able to take Michigan to the NCAAs a few times, but hasn't won more than one game when there. Has that been frustrating or are fans just happy to be back to respectability after the program had been away from the Big Dance for a while before he was there?

UMHoops: This is a complicated answer. In Michigan's first two NCAA tournament appearances, the Wolverines were bubble type teams, won their first games and battled against teams that were obviously better (Duke with Kyrie Irving and Oklahoma with Blake Griffin). The notion was that Michigan was building a program and the tournament appearances were certainly something to build on. Last year was different. Michigan won a share of the Big Ten and expectations were higher in the NCAA tournament. The upset loss to Ohio stung but falling back on a share of the Big Ten Championship - something Michigan hadn't accomplished since 1986 - helped dampen the disappointment.

Beyond the NCAA tournament performances, the excitement around the program hasn't been higher in a long time. Michigan has been to three of the last four tournaments and has its most talented roster in over a decade. Beilein's recruiting has picked up significantly with great '12 and '13 classes and Michigan has a great roster. Expectations are high this season and this team is good enough to make noise in the tournament come March.
Along those same lines, with such a highly ranked team this season, what will be the feeling of most fans if they can't get to the Sweet 16 this season? And, unpredictability of the NCAA's aside, how far do you personally expect them to go?
I would say the second weekend of the NCAA tournament is a baseline. It would be extremely disappointing if this team doesn't make it that far. Obviously upsets and unpredictability are what the NCAA tournament is all about but this is a team that should make the Sweet 16. Once you get that far, anything could happen and I think this team has the ability to go as far as Trey Burke takes them.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Trey Burke form one of the most dangerous backcourts in the country. Both are averaging close to 20 points a game and are the team leaders in rebounds and assists as well. What are the chances either goes pro early?
Trey Burke was halfway to the NBA in April before deciding to return. Most expect that Burke will take the plunge after this season, especially with a weak crop of point guards across the country.

Hardaway is a bigger question mark. Thus far he's looked like a vastly different player. He's more aggressive, rebounding and shooting much better after a disappointing sophomore season. But that's only three games against mid and low-major schools. If he can continue to play like we've seen, then he's probably a pro prospect. If he hits a few rough patches then I'm not so sure.
Tell us a little about freshman phenom Mitch McGary.
McGary committed to Michigan when he was ranked as the second best prospect in the country but his stock fell a bit over his senior year. He's currently coming off of the bench for Michigan and providing a great combination of energy, size, strength and rebounding. McGary has been slowed by a leg injury and probably isn't back to 100% conditioning quite yet. In limited minutes, he's made an impact on the glass and should only improve as his career goes on. Most importantly he gives Michigan depth in the front court, which is a luxury after Michigan had just one true post healthy on last year's roster.
How do you see this week's game playing out?
Michigan hasn't really been tested this year so it's tough to gauge how the Wolverines will react when finally facing some adversity. Pitt seems like a talented team but if Michigan is the team that everyone thinks it is, this is a game it should win.

I think the game comes down to rebounding and whether Michigan can control the defensive glass against an aggressive Pitt offensive rebounding team. Michigan has been great on the defensive glass to start the season but this will be a much stronger test than IUPUI or Cleveland State.

I think we see a close game on Wednesday night but Michigan makes just enough plays to pull out a three or four point win.

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