Day 1 of Madness is in the books and it certainly did not disappoint in regards to jaw dropping, bracket busting pandemonium. Michigan’s matchup with Socon champion Wofford fit the typical 2-15 seed mold, seeing the Wolverines effectively suppress the Terriers to move on to face Texas in (technically) the third round.
The 7th seeded Longhorns come into Saturday’s showdown with Michigan following a last second victory secured by a dramatic buzzer beating tip-in against 10th seeded Arizona State. Texas finished 4th in the Big 12 with a 24-10 record.
Texas and Michigan are perhaps the two most polar opposite teams in the tournament, in terms of style of play. The Wolverines live and die by the 3-point basket, and rely heavily on quickness and sharpshooters, while they lack on the boards and essentially every frontcourt facet. Meanwhile Texas is composed of big bodies that depend on clogging the paint and dominating the glass on both ends of the court.
Get To Know the Texas Longhorns
Size and Strength
Texas is one of the worst shooting teams in the nation, but they make up for it with physicality and strength chiefly on the backs of post powers Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes, standing 6’9” and 6’8” respectively. Ridley’s wide frame and strength in the paint puts him on the free throw line time and time again, although he only converts on 62% of attempts from the stripe. Holmes is more of a swingman, and his versatility offensively has him leading the Longhorns in scoring. Holmes is listed 6’8” (same as Jordan Morgan), and 240 lbs. (10 less than Morgan), meaning Texas’ secondary frontcourt option is essentially the same size as Michigan’s primary.
Holding down the backcourt for the Longhorns are speedy Isaiah Taylor and sharpshooter Javan Felix. Taylor predominantly works from inside, putting up 72% of his attempts from the field from the paint. Felix specializes in the corner three, but struggles from mid-range. Texas is about as frontcourt-reliant as a basketball team can be, echoed by their guards whose play emphasizes depending on big men.
Keys to Victory
Stay out of foul trouble
A strong frontcourt presence usually spells foul trouble for Michigan’s primary big men Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. Both found themselves in early foul trouble in Sunday’s Big Ten Championship against MSU, forcing Coach John Beilein to the sparingly used Max Bielfeldt (who also happens to be the two-time reigning Big Ten calves of the year award winner). Michigan is going to need Morgan and Horford on the floor as much as possible in order to neutralize the Longhorns’ paint presence, but early foul trouble could mean problems for Michigan.
Crash The Glass
It’s no secret, the Wolverines struggle on the boards. Even more they’ve really struggled against big name post players, such as Aaron Gordon, Adreian Payne and Frank Kaminsky. Texas’ big men might not have the national name recognition, but they’ve sure got the size. Michigan will have to rely on their non-frontcourt players to cheat in on shot attempts to bolster their rebounding capability. Guys like GR3, Irvin and LeVert will have to use their length to counterbalance the Longhorns’ advantage on the glass.
Seize the Momentum
It’s March, anything can happen. Ask Ohio State. 7-seed aside, Texas is certainly no picnic and should not be treated as such. However, the Longhorns, whose ranking peaked at 15, have struggled to remain consistent throughout the year, specifically nearing the season’s end, as they dropped six of their final eleven going into the Tournament. If the Wolverines can get out to a hot shooting start, and manage to keep out of foul trouble early on, then they should coast to a decisive victory.
Michigan and Texas tip off Saturday on CBS at 5:15 PM from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
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