John Niyo, Matt Charboneau and James Hawkins recap UM's NCAA tournament highs and MSU's lows and look ahead to the Wolverines' Sweet 16 appearance.
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Thursday’s Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between Michigan and Texas A&M (7:37 p.m., TBS/950).
Freshman guard T.J. Starks is averaging 15.4 points and shooting 44.6 percent from the field (39.3 percent on 3-pointers) in 14 games since moving into the starting lineup for Texas A&M. He has elevated his play in the NCAA Tournament, dishing out a career-high eight assists in the opener against Providence and pouring in 21 points in a second-round upset of North Carolina. Backcourt mate Admon Gilder is the tone-setter on both ends, shoots a team-best 40.2 percent from 3-point range and has scored in double figures in 13 straight games. Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman have gotten off to a rough start in the tournament, combining for 32 points on 10-for-36 shooting (2-for-17 on 3-pointers) to go along with 13 assists and nine turnovers. While the offensive numbers are ugly, their defensive prowess has been pivotal in two scrappy victories. Edge: Even
Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis and Robert Williams are one of the most formidable big men tandems in the nation and have combined for 19 double-doubles this season. Davis leads the Aggies in scoring (14.6 points) and the Southeastern Conference in field-goal percentage (58.2 percent), while Williams is an elite post defender and ranks No. 13 nationally in blocked shots per game (2.59). Forward D.J. Hogg is another threat beyond the arc and completes a starting lineup where all five players average double figures in scoring. Charles Matthews has been one of the lone bright spots for Michigan in the tournament, averaging a team-high 15.5 points and team-best eight rebounds per game while playing relentless defense. Foul trouble has limited center Moritz Wagner’s effectiveness in two rather lackluster outings, and freshman Isaiah Livers has just five points and six shot attempts in the past five games. Edge: Texas A&M
Texas A&M has typically relied on an eight-man rotation after sixth man Duane Wilson suffered a season-ending knee injury in February. Center Tonny Trocha-Morelos (6-foot-10) has 3-point range and gives the Aggies another big body who can overwhelm foes, while wing Savion Flagg and guard Jay Jay Chandler both contribute out on the perimeter. The reserves have been the saving grace for Michigan, who has been forced to go 10 deep due to foul trouble the last two games. Duncan Robinson and Jaaron Simmons have both stepped up to provide a first-half spark, Jon Teske makes an immediate impact on defense when he steps on the floor and Jordan Poole seems to have snapped out of his long-range shooting slump. Edge: Michigan
Michigan has survived two subpar offensive performances and Texas A&M is riding high after its dominant win over North Carolina. The Aggies will have a distinct advantage in the interior with their massive front line, but their two-big lineup and 2-3 zone will create mismatch opportunities for both sides to exploit. It likely won’t be pretty, but the Wolverines should be able to win the possession battle and get enough open looks from 3-point range to reach the Elite Eight for the third time in six seasons. Michigan, 68-66