It's been a pretty good NCAA Tournament for Michigan so far with two wins while getting to watch rival Michigan State fall to Syracuse as an upset. The Wolverines knocked off Montana and got a miracle long-range shot from freshman Jordan Poole to beat Houston. They have now won 11 straight games and have dispelled any issues with the long layoff after the early Big Ten Tournament.
Texas A&M meanwhile had to beat Providence and North Carolina to get here. The Aggies looked like the team they were back in November as they outmuscled the Tar Heels last time out, soundly beating the defending national champions by 21 points in Charlotte.
West Region: No. 7 Texas A&M (22-12) vs. No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (30-7)
Time: 7:37 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Keys for Texas A&M
Crash the boards like the Aggies have been in this tournament. They grab 34 percent of their offensive rebound opportunities and they are the bigger team in this matchup. Texas A&M took advantage of its size differential against North Carolina, out-rebounding the Tar Heels 50-34. Going into that game, North Carolina was one of the nation’s top teams on the glass, enjoying a rebounding margin of nearly 10 per game (9.8).
Michigan forward Moritz Wagner, the team’s leading rebounder (7.1 rpg), has been in a bit of foul trouble in a few games this season so he will need to be able to stay on the court or the Aggies could really have their way in the paint and on the boards. Robert Williams and Tyler Davis have the advantage down low over both Wagner and John Teske. But the Texas A&M big men also have to be aware of the Wolverines’ shooters, like Duncan Robinson, and guard all way out to the 3-point line at times. In the first two games, the Aggies have held opponents to 12 of 51 (23.5 percent) shooting from beyond the arc.
Keys for Michigan
Continue the great defense that the Wolverines played in Wichita, holding Montana and Houston to under 35 percent shooting from the field. Texas A&M has been hot as of late, especially from behind the 3-point line. After shooting 31.1 percent from the arc during the regular season, the Aggies made 10 of 24 attempts (41.7 percent) in the victory over the Tar Heels. Zavier Simpson has to be able to keep TJ Starks in check, as the Texas A&M guard poured in 21 points against North Carolina. He has had a high usage rate this season so Simpson will be busy. Finally, stay out of foul trouble. Wagner did not play that much last game and that can't keep happening if the rest of the offense continues to slump.
Points will be at a premium in this one. These two teams have similar strengths and weaknesses and the key could be who will start the fastest. As I said above, it's imperative for Wagner to stay on the court and help battle Texas A&M's bigs. I think in the end, we may see another upset from the Aggies, who are in better form right now than the Wolverines.