Top-seeded Wolverines look to avoid the upset against the Tigers
East Region No. 1 seed Michigan gets its first test of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night against No. 8 LSU. The Wolverines are coming off an 82-66 victory over 16 seed Texas Southern. Mike Smith led four double-digit scorers with 18 points in a game whose outcome was never really in doubt.
LSU clamped down on defense, holding No. 9 St. Bonaventure to just 61 points in a 76-61 victory. Cameron Thomas was awesome with 27 points while getting to the line 13 times overall. The Tigers out-rebounded the Bonnies 49-30 in the win.
These two teams have played just three times previously with the last meeting coming in 2017 when LSU eked out a 77-75 victory over Michigan in the Maui Invitational Tournament.
East Region: No. 8 LSU Tigers (19-9) vs. No. 1 Michigan Wolverines (21-4)
Time: Monday, March 22 at 7:10 p.m. ET
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
Spread: Michigan -5.5
Keys for LSU
If the Tigers continue to be smoking hot on offense, they will upset the Wolverines. In their four postseason games (the SEC and NCAA Tournament) thus far, LSU has put up 76, 78, 79 and 76 points. Cameron Thomas continues to be amazing and will be the focus of the Michigan scouting report so the Tigers will need some other players to step up and provide offense.
Pace of play also will be important as LSU wants to get up and down while Michigan is a bit more methodical. The Tigers are 7-3 in games with fewer than 70 possessions, but they seem more comfortable on the run. The Wolverines' first three games were played at a 70-plus possession pace, but they've had just four of them since, including Saturday's first-round win over Texas Southern.
Keys for Michigan
LSU is one of the worst teams in the country at preventing offensive rebounds, checking in at 320th overall (32.4 percent allowed). Michigan is 114th in offensive rebounding percentage and Hunter Dickinson could benefit from this. The freshman had 16 points, but only two rebounds in 24 minutes against Texas Southern because he was in foul trouble. The 7-footer leads the team in both scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg), so it's critical that he stay on the court.
The Tigers give up a lot of 3-point attempts as nearly 44 percent of opponents' shots come from long range. This is a problem against a Wolverines team that features three regulars who shoot at least 39 percent from beyond the arc. If Michigan gets hot from 3-point land then it will be much tougher for LSU to pull off the upset.
Michigan has been vulnerable since the loss of forward Isaiah Livers to a foot injury. With the win on Saturday, the Wolverines moved to 3-3 in their last six games. LSU's defense showed up against St. Bonaventure, but this Michigan team is a whole different challenge. I think this one will be close, but the top seed will move on to the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Michigan 74, LSU 69
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.