If you've watched Tulsa play at all this season, and chances are if you're reading a Big Ten blog you probably haven't, James Woodard is the guy that makes Tulsa go. Woodard is the heart and soul of this team, as he led the Golden Hurricane in scoring and rebounding as a freshman and sophomore, and continues to be in the top two in scoring and rebounding through his junior year.
In 30 games this season, Woodard has scored in double figures 28 times and only missed one game. It's clear he has the ability to score at will, with a season high of 23 points but many other games where he scored at least 20. Woodard also made this shot, a crazy 75-foot buzzer beater against Cincinnati.
In losses, however, Woodard plays significantly worse. He shot 1-10 against UConn in a game Tulsa somehow only lost by two, and had nine points on 3-11 shooting in a 76-57 loss to Cincinnati.
If I had to guess, John Beilein is going to start Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on Woodard. MAAR is about the same size and build, and has been excellent guarding the other team's best guards as of late. MAAR will relish this challenge, and it will likely make him elevate his game on the offensive end.
As of late, Abdur-Rahkman has been much more aggressive attacking the basket. He is probably Michigan's best rim attacker, and if Woodard matches up with him on the defensive end, look for Michigan to run sets to get Woodard into foul trouble. I haven't read anything about his defensive capabilities, but I can't imagine he'll want to exert too much energy on defense if he needs to taking the scoring lead.
The biggest key with this matchup, ultimately, is how key each player is to their team. MAAR doesn't have to be phenomenal in this game for Michigan to win, while Woodard needs to play one of his best games of the season for Tulsa to have a shot.
I find this matchup intriguing as well because this could dictate how Beilein uses MAAR through the rest of this tournament and even next year if Michigan were to advance. Once an afterthought, the Pennsylvania native has become a crucial part of this Michigan team and his defensive capabilities further emphasize this.