With the Sweet Sixteen match a day away, we invited our friends over at Maize n Brew to answer some questions regarding the matchup! Here’s what they had to say.
Both Michigan and Texas Tech lost to Villanova last tournament season; Tech in the Elite Eight and Michigan in the Final. How much of that loss has fueled their season this year (even after getting sweet sweet revenge)?
Michigan’s loss to Villanova in the championship game last season didn’t impact this year’s team much. Was the beatdown of the Wildcats in Philly a lot of fun? Absolutely. But Michigan is a much different team this season.
The Wolverines lost three key players from their championship team last season in Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, and of course Moe Wagner. Those three were three of the top four scorers on the roster.
Michigan is a new team this season with a new philosophy this season. The team turned from living and dying by the three to surviving from their defense. Michigan has certainly played with a chip on their shoulder this season after a big turnaround of their roster.
The forefront of that is the villain of the tournament, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis. He came in with a lot to prove this season and earned a starting spot over last year’s starter Isaiah Livers. While a lot of what he does may rub off as cocky, he has been the driving force of the team this season. The energy, enthusiasm, and explosive plays that he generates has made him a leader on this team as a freshman and earned him the award of Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
If I had to put the fuel on one thing, it would be his play and his mentality that has completely revolutionized the 2018-19 version of the Michigan Wolverines.
I was personally hype on Michigan early this year when they were plowing through their competition, most notably the 84-67 thumping of North Carolina. Who are the key players that have made the largest impact for Michigan this season - and who are you expecting to step up for Thursday’s game?
The aforementioned Ignas Brazdeikis has been the most recognizable name on this roster and he has earned it. He can finish with both hands at the rim, shoots the three ball well, and is a very impressive defender. The freshman is the leading scorer on the team and provides leadership, explosiveness and energy that is replicated by few freshmen in the country. He is the most consistent player on this roster who almost guarantees 15 points per game.
Another player to be aware of is junior point guard Zavier Simpson. He is the facilitator of this offense and verges near a triple-double in almost every performance. Simpson has found creative ways to put the ball in the basket, including his now famous hook shot that earned him the nickname Captain Hook. At just 6’0” it is quite a sight to see when he finishes in this unique way at the rim.
But the offense could come from a variety of guys on the roster. If Jordan Poole heats up, this team is nearly unstoppable to beat. The problem with that is that it can take some time to happen and he often tries to force it into happening. Poole’s play is what could make this Michigan team a championship contender. They are a completely different team when he can rack up shot after shot from deep. It often times comes in spurts if at all. If Poole is on, Michigan will win this game. If not, the Wolverines will have to become more creative on the offensive end.
Michigan is currently ranked 5th overall on KenPom with an impressive AdjO of 19 and AdjD of 2. Texas Tech, for comparison, is ranked 7th overall with an AdjO of 33 and an AdjD of 1. Should fans pay attention to these numbers? Why or why not?
Fans should definitely pay attention to the numbers in this one. KenPom’s numbers on the defensive side of the ball for both these teams are definitely true. The maize and blue won most of their games because of their impressive defense and Texas Tech seemingly did the same.
Whichever team can figure out the other’s defense first will win this game, and it could be painful for both sides. These teams match up very well with each other and it should be a very exciting one to watch.
What about this game brings you the most excitement? What matchups are you looking forward to and what about the Red Raiders makes you nervous?
The most exciting matchup will be between the Red Raider’s Jarrett Culver and Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis. Both are explosive scorers who put together complete performances on both sides of the ball. For Brazdeikis, it will be his toughest matchup of the season defensively. Culver has been playing out of his mind in this tournament, but he hasn’t met a defender like Brazdeikis yet.
If Brazdeikis and Michigan’s defense can find a way to slow him down I like the Wolverines’ chances in this one, but that isn’t an easy task. Culver can shoot, rebound, move the rock around, and play stellar defense without racking up a ton of fouls. The matchup between both team’s leading scorers is the one to watch for in this Sweet Sixteen matchup.
Could you tell us a little about the Michigan Wolverines that national media doesn’t capture?
The national media doesn’t highlight the importance of center Jon Teske. He is the anchor of the defense, and at 7’1”, can swat away any basketball in his vicinity. The Red Raiders are going to have a tough go of it at the rim because of his defensive prowess.
On the offensive end, he excels in the pick n’ roll and pick n’ pop with Zavier Simpson. He can roll to the rim and burn defenders off the screen or hit a jump shot the elbows with precision. At times he has also caught fire from deep and is extremely dangerous on the offensive end when he does so.
The matchup with Tariq Owens is going to be another tight contest between these two teams. I expect John Beilein to try and get Owens out of his comfort zone around the perimeter to open up lanes for other guys to the hoop. With Teske’s versatility, we will see how Beilein plans to utilize him against the Red Raiders.
Alright, hit me with your prediction for this game.
Like I said I expect this one to be a very defensive-based game that comes down to the wire. Michigan will have to slow down Jarrett Culver and Texas Tech will have to contain the Wolverines’ energy on offense and the shooting display that Jordan Poole can put on. The first team to 65 points will likely win this one. I think that Jordan Poole is the catalyst in this contest for Michigan. If he can shoot the way he did against Florida (4 of 9 from deep, 19 points) then I think the Michigan Wolverines will pull away in a close one 68-64.