James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down the matchups for Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game between Michigan and Louisville.
Louisville has solid guard play led by starters Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider, who do most of the offensive damage. Mitchell leads the Cardinals at 15.5 points per game and Snider ranks second at 12.9 points, but the two have the lowest field-goal percentage numbers of the starting five. Mitchell and Snider take half their shots from beyond the arc and can keep defenses honest although neither one shoots above 40 percent from 3-point range. But aside from the two, Louisville lacks backcourt depth. Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. continues to amaze and seemingly nothing can slow him down. Even after a rough first half against Oklahoma State where he was held to seven points on 1-for-6 shooting in Friday’s first-round game, Walton still managed to finish with 26 points and shoot 53.8 percent (7-for-13) from the field. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman continues to quietly produce and his ability to drive and collapse the lane will help open shots for others against Louisville’s length.Edge: Michigan
If there’s one thing Louisville doesn’t lack it is size. The Cardinals have five players who are at least 6-foot-9, led by 7-footers Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman. Starters Jaylen Johnson (Ypsilanti) and Mangok Mathiang are a handful to contain and both are shooting over 50 percent from the field. Deng Adel is the smallest of the starting frontcourt at 6-7 and 6-10 Ray Spalding averages roughly six points, six rebounds and a block off the bench. Michigan’s Zak Irvin has been dialed in, shooting at least 54 percent from the field in six of the past seven games but his defense will be tested. After playing just 14 minutes against Oklahoma State, Moritz Wagner can ill afford to get into early foul trouble and have D.J. Wilson play the entire game. Wagner and Wilson can stretch out Louisville’s defense but will have their work cut out against the Cardinals’ athletic bigs.Edge:Louisville
Louisville relies on its stifling defense to create its offense. The Cardinals rank seventh nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and in the top 20 in blocked shots (5.5 per game, 10th), field-goal percentage defense (39.9 percent, 14th), rebounds (39.6, 18th) and 3-point field-goal percentage (31.6 percent, 19th). They’ve also held 10 opponents under 60 points or less while playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Meanwhile, Michigan ranks fourth nationally in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and has been firing on all cylinders over the past couple weeks. Not to mention the Wolverines enter the matchups on six-game win streak. Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Michigan’s John Beilein have a history of thrilling meetings but Pitino has gotten the best of Beilein, winning four of the five head-to-head matchups.Edge: Even
Louisville enters the game as the slight favorite and holds an edge in scoring offense and defense. But Michigan has all the momentum and arguably one of the top performing players in the nation in senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. As long as Michigan continues to take care of the ball, doesn’t get pummeled on the boards and big men Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson stay out of foul trouble, the Wolverines should be able to do just enough to advance to the Sweet 16. Michigan 70, Louisville 66