Looking to continue on the road to a second-straight Final Four, Michigan heads to Anaheim, Calif. where a feisty and dangerous Texas Tech team awaits the Wolverines for a Thursday night Sweet Sixteen showdown.
-No. 2 Michigan Wolverines vs No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Time/TV: 9:39PM ET - CBS
- KenPom Spread: Michigan (-2)
Michigan hasn’t exactly had to run over Goliath on its way to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Sure, as a 2-seed the odds were going to be in the Wolverines’ favor no matter who they played, but in cruising to rather convincing double-digit victories against Montana and Florida, UM has seemingly picked right up where its impressive 2018-’19 season left off.
Unsurprising for anyone who’s watched Michigan play this season, it managed to run over its first two opponents thanks to playing some good ol’ fashion team basketball. Against Montana in the opening round, four Wolverines scored in double-figures, with senior guard Charles Matthews leading the way with 22 points. Matthews also managed to chip in 10 rebounds for the double-double as UM defeated the Grizzlies 74-55.
In the round of 32, it was a different, yet familiar story for Michigan.
Owners of the nation’s second best defense according to stat guru KenPom (FYI — Texas Tech holds the top spot), Michigan held Florida to a dismal 34.5 percent shooting clip from the floor. To that point, the Gators managed only 49 points — or nearly a full 20 points off its 2018-’19 team scoring average of 68.3 points per game.
So after two games, saying the Wolverines get you coming and going would be just a wee bit of an understatement.
In Texas Tech, however, Michigan will meet a team that just flew through its first two NCAA Tournament games in its own right.
Against Northern Kentucky, the story for the Red Raiders started and stopped with Jarrett Culver. The sophomore guard nearly put up a triple-double as he paired eight rebounds and seven assists with 29 points on a 10-of-17 shooting night from the field.
While still the team’s leading scorer two days later, Culver was only a piece of a larger Texas Tech blowout as all five Red Raider starters put up at least 10 points, including two double-doubles from Culver (16 points, 10 rebounds) and senior center Norense Odiase (14 points, 15 rebounds).
In the end, Texas Tech’s opening weekend performance included a 150-115 combined scoring differential (+35), which just so happens to be a single point better than Michigan’s first and second round total of 138-104 (+34).
You’d be correct in saying that tonight’s matchup is rather even and, thus, the first real test of March Madness for both schools.
So how will it shake out? Well that’ll depend on which teams’ offense can break through against two world-class defenses.
Both Chris Beard and John Beilein are excellent coaches who have built two of college basketball’s least appreciated juggernauts. And in Jarrett Culver and Charles Matthews, they both have the lead guards to take over a game.
But there’s just something about this Michigan team that seems destined for another win and I think the maize and blue find a way to march on to the Elite Eight.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 19-28