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Published: Sunday, 3/13/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

UM, Tennessee to clash Friday

Winner likely will play Duke next


ANN ARBOR -- In the end, it wasn't even all that close.

Michigan is headed back to the NCAA tournament for the second time in four seasons under John Beilein, and although the Wolverines spent the last couple of weeks on the bubble, they ended up being seeded eighth in the West regional. They will play ninth-seeded Tennessee on Friday in Charlotte.

"You just never know what's going to happen," Beilein said. "Now that I see where we were seeded, I don't know what I was so worried about."

Michigan (20-13) came into the season with low expectations after missing the NCAA tournament last year and losing Manny Harris to the NBA. The young Wolverines started 1-6 in Big Ten play but have won nine of their last 13 games. They haven't played Tennessee (19-14) since 1985.

In fact, the closest thing the schools have had to a rivalry came in 1997, when Michigan's Charles Woodson beat out Tennessee's Peyton Manning for the Heisman Trophy.

The Michigan-Tennessee winner will likely meet top-seeded Duke in the next round.

Michigan players watched the selection show at Crisler Arena with enough fans to fill nearly four sections in the lower bowl. Although there were plenty of nerves, the Wolverines made the 68-team field with room to spare. When Michigan was announced, the players jumped out of their seats and started celebrating.

Athletic director Dave Brandon then addressed the crowd.

"You all know where we were projected to finish," Brandon said. "We had a team that was too young playing in the toughest conference in the country -- all that. We're so proud of them."

Michigan's resurgence began with a win at Michigan State in late January. The Wolverines' profile could have been even better, as they lost close games to Syracuse, Kansas, and Ohio State.

"Our schedule has prepared us," junior Zack Novak said. "We played great teams this year. We're ready to play anybody."

Guard Darius Morris is averaging 15.2 points a game and has 220 assists on the season. Freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr., has come on strong, shooting 46 percent from 3-point range since Jan. 15.

Jordan Morgan is shooting 62 percent from the field, giving Michigan a much-needed presence inside.

Perhaps the only downside is that the Wolverines will have to play in Charlotte, which isn't far from Tennessee.

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