The Sweet 16 begins tonight, with a spot in the Elite 8 on the line. In Anaheim, No. 2 Michigan (29-6, 3rd Big Ten) takes on No. 3 Texas Tech (28-6, 1st Big 12), where the winner will play either Gonzaga or Florida State in the West regional final.
As you would expect in a 2 vs. 3 matchup, projections side with this being a close game. Right now, Michigan is the slight favorite -1.5.
How They Got Here
Starting with Texas Tech, the Red Raiders stomped past No. 14 Northern Kentucky 72-57 and then followed it up with a 78-58 win over No. 6 Buffalo. Most impressive of all, they held both opponents to a combined 36.9 percent shooting.
For Michigan, they have had a similar path to the Sweet 16. The Wolverines held No. 15 Montana to 33.3 percent shooting in the first round, winning 74-55. Then they locked up No. 10 Florida 64-49 in the second round, giving up 34.5 percent shooting.
Keys for Texas Tech
Defense, defense, and more defense is what Texas Tech prides themselves in. According to KenPom, they are number one in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. They also boast the third-best scoring defense, while forcing a lot of blocked shots and turnovers.
Texas Tech also has a star in Jarrett Culver. The sophomore Culver, who is a projected NBA lottery pick, averaged 22.5 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in their games against Northern Kentucky and Buffalo. He averaged just under 19 points per game this season and will have to find a way to score against a stout Michigan defense.
Other options include Davide Moretti, who averaged 11.5 points and a 45.4 three-point percentage, and Matt Mooney, who averaged 10.9 points per game and shot 38.1 percent from deep. They also have big man Norense Odiase and an elite rim protector in Tariq Owens (83 blocks).
Keys for Texas Tech
Texas Tech was number one in the KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. But number two? The Michigan Wolverines, who allowed just 58.2 points per game, a full point less than the Raiders. This season they gave up 39.6 percent shooting, including 29.0 percent from beyond the arc.
While Michigan doesn’t have a player at the level of Culver, freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is quickly rising to stardom. Brazdeikis averaged a team-leading 14.9 points per game and will need to reach that level and more for Michigan to score enough against a stingy defense.
But the Wolverines have other scoring options. Guard Jordan Poole averaged just under 13 points a game, while senior guard Charles Matthews averaged 12.2 points. It will likely be Matthews who is tasked with guarding Culver for the majority of the game. Like Owens with Texas Tech, Jon Teske (73 blocks) provides rim protection, and point guard Zavier Simpson can make the Raiders sweat with tough, on-ball defense.
You can make a strong case for these being the two best defensive teams not only remaining in the tournament but in all of college basketball period. So to me, it will come down to who has enough scoring options. While Culver is the best player on the court, Michigan can take him out of the game and force Texas Tech to rely on their secondary scorers who aren’t close to his level. The Wolverines are just a little deeper, and that will be the deciding factor.
Final Score: Michigan 62, Texas Tech 57