CLEVELAND — March 2nd. Former Michigan teammates Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas see extended run as the Pistons blow out the Cavaliers 129-93 at Quicken Loans Arena. The pair were freshmen in 2013 when Michigan made its run to the national championship game before falling to Louisville in Atlanta, and made it to the Elite 8 in 2014, losing to Kentucky on a three-pointer with less than three seconds to play.
There are some parallels between the 2013 team and 2019 team:
- Both opened the regular season with program-record win streaks (2013: 16-0, 2019: 17-0) that came to an end on the road in Big Ten play.
- Both lost at Penn State
- Both just missed out on a regular season Big Ten championship (The 2013 team could have won a share with a win over Indiana on Senior Day)
- Both lost in the Big Ten Tournament (2013: quarterfinal to Wisconsin, 2019: final to Michigan State)
Stauskas, who is friends with freshman Ignas Brazdeikis due to their Canadian ties, has provided similar advice for Michigan’s top-scorer throughout the season and kept the message similar regarding the postseason.
“My advice would stay the same, winning is the most important thing,” Stauskas said. “If he can get his team to the Final Four, those are the kind of things that put you in the spotlight and get you more attention if going to the league is something that he wants. So if you win, everything kind of takes care of itself.”
Brazdeikis will look to leave his mark on the tournament starting Thursday when No. 2 Michigan opens against No. 15 Montana in Des Moines, Iowa.
Michigan showed how strong it could be on both sides of the ball in Big Ten Tournament matchups against Iowa and Minnesota. Despite allowing a 12 point lead to slip away against Michigan State on Sunday, the Wolverines were still in that game until the final moments. That is a building block the team can use as it prepares to survive and advance this weekend. Glenn Robinson III had great individual success in the 2013 tournament, averaging 12.6 points per game including tying his then career-high of 21 against South Dakota State in the round of 64 game. For GRIII, confidence was key.
“There is no reason to be nervous.,” Robinson said regarding tournament play. “This team has shown a lot of great capabilities, and I think as long as they play together, that is the big thing, have fun with it.”
After their run to the national championship game as freshmen, Robinson, Stauskas and their other returning teammates kept their foot on the gas pedal the following season as Michigan claimed the outright Big Ten championship. Made it to championship Sunday of the Big Ten Tournament, and almost made a return trip to the Final Four before Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison unceremoniously ended the Wolverines run, and subsequently, the Fresh Five era as Robinson, Stauskas and Mitch McGary declared for the 2014 draft, leaving only Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht on campus from the 2012 recruiting class.
For the 2019 Wolverines, the challenge that begins on Thursday is trying to mount a run back to a Final Four after the 2018 Wolverines made a run through the tournament before falling to Villanova. After losing Moritz Wagner to the NBA Draft as well as Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson and Jaaron Simmons to graduation, the Wolverines have their work cut out for them in a West region that provides a similar path to last year’s bracket.
“The main thing is you just gotta remember the pain I guess that that loss caused them last year and just try to feed off of that,” Stauskas said of trying to follow a national title game run with another deep march into the tournament. “Try to use it as motivation to get back there this year. Not many teams have the opportunity to go back to back Final Fours. It’s pretty rare so if they can do that then they are in some pretty elite company with some great teams from the past, and I think they should be pretty proud of that.”
“When we played together I don’t think any of us looked at that (big picture,)” said Robinson III. “We all wanted that final goal but we took it game by game, step by step and just tried to have fun because nobody wanted our season to end.”
As Michigan looks to extend its season for another six games and to finish out the year in Minneapolis during the first weekend in April, Stauskas offered what many former Beilein players would: trust your coach.
“They have played well enough all year to put themselves in that position, so they just need to stick with it. Believe in each other, believe in Coach Beilein and that whole staff and hopefully, everything works out.”
The Wolverines are 17-3 dating back to the 2017 postseason and have won at least one NCAA tournament game in seven of eight tournament trips under Beilein (in 2012, No. 4 Michigan was upset by No. 13 Ohio.) While the Wolverines have questions to answer, they are looking to make a statement Thursday night against Montana, and Robinson and Stauskas will be cheering on their school and old coach from afar.