The Detroit News’ James Hawkins breaks down Thursday’s Michigan-Texas Tech NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (9:39 p.m.; CBS/WWJ 950).
Texas Tech sophomore Davide Moretti is shooting the ball at a high clip — 49.8 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from 3-point range and 91.9 percent from the free-throw line — and finished the regular season with a flourish, averaging 14.5 points on 57.8 percent shooting (59.6 percent on 3s) over the final 12 games. However, he’s 0-for-7 on 3-point attempts in two NCAA Tournament games. Matt Mooney, a grad transfer from South Dakota, packs a similar offensive punch but is shooting better from 3-point range (45.5 percent) than from the field (30.3 percent) this postseason. Mooney also earned Big 12 all-defensive team honors after recording a team-high 62 steals.
Junior Zavier Simpson has led a pair of stifling defensive efforts for Michigan in the first two rounds — holding opposing point guards to 17 points on 5-for-20 shooting (1-for-8 on 3s) — all while orchestrating an offense that averaged 1.09 and 1.05 points per possession against Montana and Florida, respectively. Sophomore Jordan Poole has hit five of the team’s 12 3-pointers in the Tournament and looked more in control when he scored a team-high 19 points against Florida. However, Poole still finished 5-for-15 from the field against the Gators and gave up multiple wide-open 3-point looks to Florida’s Jalen Hudson on defense.
Sophomore Jarrett Culver has blossomed into the driving force for the Red Raiders. As the team’s do-everything swingman, the Big 12 player of the year and projected lottery pick leads the team in scoring (18.8 points), rebounding (6.5) and assists (3.8), and can put up 25-plus points on any given night, like he has in three of the past four games. Big man Tariq Owens, a grad transfer from St. John’s, is a menace down low as one of the nation’s top rim protectors (83 blocks) and a 62-percent shooter from the field. Fellow fifth-year big Norense Odiase, who is known for his defense, recorded his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds against Buffalo.
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews has flipped a switch and has been getting it done on both ends for Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. Over the past two games, Matthews has rarely given up a clean look and has scored a team-best 31 points by attacking the rim at will. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis had his double-digit scoring streak snapped at 10 games with a five-point showing against Florida, but that likely won’t faze him much as he’s shown a knack for bouncing back in a big way. Junior big man Jon Teske continues to be a steady force and has either recorded or flirted with a double-double every game over the past month.
Edge: Texas Tech
The Red Raiders tend to go eight deep in the rotation with forward Deshawn Corprew and guards Brandone Francis and Kyler Edwards, who are all averaging at least 14 minutes and have combined for 18 double-digit scoring performances. Francis, a fifth-year senior, leads the unit as the sixth man and more than half his made field goals (74) have come from 3-point range (39). Edwards and Corprew are also long-range threats at 41.7 percent.
Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers has had the best stretch of his career over the past month by scoring at least 10 points five times in eight games. Much of it has to do with the newfound confidence and aggressiveness Livers is playing with and needs to continue to play with for Michigan, especially on the offensive end. Sophomore guard Eli Brooks has seemingly put his struggles behind him and continues to give solid minutes in brief spurts. Brooks has scored more points in five postseason games (20) than he did in the final 18 regular-season games (15).
Michigan has faced its fair share of tough defenses and won’t be fazed by what Texas Tech has to offer when the two stingy units square off. However, the Wolverines haven’t come across a player of Jarrett Culver’s caliber and their susceptibility to offensive lulls won’t be as easy to overcome against the Red Raiders. Just like it took the nation’s most efficient offense to take down Michigan last year, this time it will be the country's top team in defensive efficiency. Texas Tech 58, Michigan 56