When the No. 3 seed Texas Tech Red Raiders (28-6) meet the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (30-6) on Thursday night, the respective crowds won’t have to shout defense in unison. Each team brings enough defense to the Sweet 16, it probably won’t be much of a party offensively.
The Red Raiders have the No. 3 scoring defense in the country, holding opponents to 59.2 points per game. They held the high scoring Buffalo Bulls to 58 points during the 20-point win. They also limited Northern Kentucky to 57 points in the first round. That should be a scary proposition for their next opponent. However, they pale in comparison to the Wolverines. Yes, the Big Ten runner-up holds teams to 58.2 points per game. They are slightly better than the Red Raiders. They possess the No. 2 overall scoring defense.
3 Texas Tech Red Raiders (28-6) vs. 2 Michigan Wolverines (30-6)
When: Thursday, March 28, 9:39 p.m. ET
Where: Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
Betting Line: Michigan -2 o/u 125.5
Texas Tech Red Raiders Breakdown
The most interesting player to watch on either side has to be Jarrett Culver. The sophomore guard has turned himself into an elite defender. He leads the Red Raiders with 18.5 points per game. Culver also averages 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Culver is so versatile, he looks like he is around 6’8 on the court. However, he is only 6’5 and has provided plenty of matchup nightmares throughout the season.
Back court mates Davide Moretti and Matt Mooney also score in double figures. If the Red Raiders score enough on Thursday night, this three-guard tandem must shoot the ball well. Moretti shoots 45 percent from 3-point range. Mooney shoots 38 percent from 3-point range. Interestingly enough, I pegged Mooney as a 3-point shooter when he was lighting it up with South Dakota. Well, that’s because he was taking over six 3-pointers per game during those two seasons. Mooney routinely passes up open shots to drive the ball with the Red Raiders. He’s only attempting three 3-pointers per game with his new team. Yet, don’t be surprised if he attempts at least six 3-pointers tonight. It might be their best available shot.
Michigan Wolverines Breakdown
Despite a few struggles on the offensive side of the ball, the Wolverines have won both NCAA Tournament games by double figures. They held Montana Grizzlies to 55 points in the first round. They held the Florida Gators to 49 points during a 15-point win. They are beating opponents by 17 points per game.
The Wolverines haven’t had a three-game winning streak since beating the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 29. They have had four two-game winning streaks snapped since then. Will it happen a fifth time to end the season?
Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis leads the Wolverines with 14.8 points per game. However, they have six guys scoring over eight points per game. Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews must play well for the Wolverines to have an efficient offense. Yet, it might not be the 3-point shot. Matthews has an elite mid-post game. Therefore, his potential battle with Culver could be the stuff of legend.
Both teams made the Elite 8 last season, so they are becoming two of the best programs in college basketball. The Wolverines have a little bit more star quality on the offensive side of the ball. Furthermore, they have been Final Four or bust for most of the season. If they didn’t lose to Michigan State three times we wouldn’t even be having this conversation yet. Therefore, we are going with the Wolverines.
Michigan 60 – Texas Tech 57