Who has the edge: Michigan vs. Houston
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game between Michigan and Houston (9:40 p.m., TBS/950).
Houston starts a three-guard lineup with senior Rob Gray and juniors Corey Davis Jr. and Galen Robinson Jr., who are all 6-foot-2 or shorter. Most of the offensive damage will be done by Gray, who has been a one-man wrecking crew as of late and will be priority No. 1 for Michigan’s defense. He is averaging 25.5 points and shooting 47.8 percent from the field over the past eight games, and scored a career-high 39 points in a first-round win over San Diego State. Davis is the top long-range threat at 43 percent and has made at least three 3-pointers in eight of the past 10 games, while Robinson is the facilitator who dishes out 3.7 assists per game. Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman don’t offer quite the same offensive firepower as Gray and Davis, but their ability to get into the lane and prevent dribble penetration will be paramount in what could be another drag-it-out affair. Charles Matthews is coming off one of his most efficient offensive performances of the season and will likely have a distinct height advantage over whoever matchups up against him on both ends. Edge: Houston
Fifth-year senior forward Devin Davis gives Houston balance and a consistent inside scoring presence. He averages 10.7 points while shooting 49.4 percent from the floor and leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. Junior forward Breaon Brady helps anchors the interior defense with Davis but only averages 13 minutes per game and isn’t much of an offensive threat. Moritz Wagner will look to bounce back after he wasn’t much of a factor in the win over Montana, but he’s still a difficult matchup and Michigan is at its best when he’s able to get into a groove. Isaiah Livers has played at least 20 minutes and scored more than three points just once in the past eight games, yet his value is the versatility he brings on the defensive end. Edge: Michigan
Houston has four reserves who have starting experience this season in guards Wes VanBeck (eight games) and Armoni Brooks (one game), forward Nura Zanna (two starts) and center Chris Harris Jr. (one start). Brooks and VanBeck provide most of the scoring punch for the unit and each are shooting at least 38 percent from 3-point range. However, VanBeck is sidelined with a left hand injury and Houston’s backups have only produced nine total points over the past two games. Michigan isn’t as reliant on its starting lineup with forward Duncan Robinson bringing steady production and center Jon Teske providing a shot-altering presence. Jordan Poole is always a threat to heat up in a hurry and Jaaron Simmons can spell Simpson for extended minutes if needed. Edge: Michigan
This game has the makings of a defensive battle where baskets will be hard to come by since Michigan ranks No. 3 nationally and Houston No. 14 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. Michigan’s Zavier Simpson doesn’t shy away from any matchup and will up to the task to shut down Houston’s Rob Gray, which could force the Cougars to find another way to beat the Wolverines. While Michigan is looking to return to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season, this is unfamiliar territory for Houston, who is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. Michigan 60, Houston 55
Michigan vs. Houston
Tip-off: 9:40 p.m. Saturday, INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita, Kan.
TV/radio: TBS/950 AM
Records: No. 3 seed Michigan is 29-7, No. 6 seed Houston is 27-7
Next up: Winner advances to Sweet 16 in Los Angeles