When Cameron Ridley's buzzer-beater went down on late Thursday night, I knew the Wolverines were going to be in for quite a tough test on Saturday. Michigan played a very solid game in their first outing, holding Wofford to 40 points but only scoring 57 themselves. While Texas is a much bigger team on its frontline than Michigan, I expect John Beilein to use his normal starting lineup and not tinker with the rotations. Let's preview the teams in Saturday's clash:
Texas: The Longhorns start two players taller than 6'8 who have both been a big reason for Texas' success all year. Cameron Ridley is the biggest man in the middle, and went for 17 points and 12 rebounds against 7'2 Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski. The other forward, Jonathan Holmes, went for 12 and 3, but Holmes could be a tough matchup for Glenn Robinson III as he can step out and shoot the 3 as well. He is the Longhorns' most talented offensive player, and has played excellent in Texas' biggest games this season, scoring 23 and 22 respectively in the Longhorns' wins over Kansas and Iowa State. Another key player for Texas is point guard Isaiah Taylor, who doesn't look to do a ton of scoring but is an excellent defender and could give both Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton Jr. some trouble in the backcourt.
Michigan: The Wolverines have a small frontline but counter that with a larger backcourt, and Texas doesn't start a guard taller than 6'2 (5'11, 6'1, 6'2.) This will allow both Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas to shoot over smaller defenders, something that both players have excelled at all year. Michigan's offense didn't look particularly crisp in their first game against Wofford, but they still managed 15 assists on 22 field goals, and got at least 6 points from all 5 starters. Perhaps the best statistic from the win over the Terriers was the play of the two headed monster at center. I said before the Big Ten season started that Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan would need to combine for 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolverines to be a great team, and while they never quite reached those numbers, their play has been excellent as of late. They combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds against a smaller Wofford frontline, but Michigan fans should be encouraged that both big men have created production on the offensive end. In today's game, the key will clearly be focused more on defense, as John Beilein has told both Horford and Morgan that they will have to work extremely hard to get good defensive position on both Ridley and Holmes.
Prediction: While Texas has been up and down to end the season, the Wolverines have remained red hot despite their setback against Michigan State in the Big Ten final. I think Texas' guards are too small to contain both Stauskas and LeVert, and Jordan Morgan is a veteran who plays his best basketball in the biggest games. Ridley will likely get between 12 and 15 points and be a nightmare for Michigan, but John Beilein's men have too much talent and shooting to let Texas win this won. I see Michigan winning 72-64 behind 22 points from Nik Stauskas, and moving on to the next round. As always, Go Blue!