Last Updated: 2019-03-26
It was just last year that the No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders made their first-ever trip to the Elite Eight. Texas Tech knocked off Stephen F. Austin, Florida, and Purdue on its way to the Elite Eight, but the Red Raiders ran into a buzzsaw in national champion Villanova with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They are hoping that they can make their first-ever trip to the Final Four this season, but they are underdogs to the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines on Thursday.
This West Region Semifinal game will be the second part of a doubleheader on Thursday, March 28, from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. This game is expected to tip off around 9:39 p.m. ET, and it will be broadcast on CBS. Oddsmakers have made #2 Michigan a slight two-point favorite over #3 Texas Tech, and the total has been set at 126.5. The winner will go on to face either Gonzaga or Florida State for a spot in the Final Four in Minneapolis on Saturday.
How They Got Here
It’s been a chalky tournament to this point with every single favorite advancing in the second round, and the West Region has seen all four top seeds advance.
Michigan couldn’t beat Michigan State during the regular season or the Big 10 Conference Tournament (with three of their six losses coming at the hands of the Spartans), but they are 30-3 against the rest of their competition. The Wolverines have had no trouble with either of their NCAA Tournament opponents to get to this point, hammering Montana 74-55 in the first round and dismantling Florida 64-49 in the second round.
Things have been a little tougher for the Red Raiders, but Texas Tech has been playing better teams. The Red Raiders were only up by four on Northern Kentucky at halftime before turning it on in the second half, and they repeated that formula against a game Buffalo team in the second round. That performance was very impressive, as Texas Tech held one of the top offenses in the country to just 58 points and forced 16 turnovers.
If you’re a fan of defense, this is your national championship. Texas Tech and Michigan have the first- and second-ranked defenses in the country according to Ken Pomeroy. The Red Raiders are one of the best teams in the country when it comes to forcing turnovers. They are turning teams over on 23.1 percent of their possessions, and they are allowing opponents to sink just 30 percent of threes and 41.4 percent of twos on the year. The only bad thing you can say about their defense is they send people to line more often than usual because of their physical style.
On offense, it’s all about Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti. Culver is the team’s go-to guy whenever they need a bucket. He is able to drive the lane and get good shots pretty often, and he gets to the line pretty often. Meanwhile, Moretti is the team’s top three-point shooter. He takes the most threes on a team that doesn’t shoot the triple too often, and he is knocking down 45.4 percent of them.
Michigan only allows opponents to hit 29 percent of their threes and 44.1 percent of their twos, and they are far less likely to send opponents to the line. The Wolverines are great at cleaning up the glass too, and the only thing they don’t do well on defense is force turnovers.
When the Wolverines are on offense, they don’t turn the ball over. They turn it over on 13.7 percent of possession and that number is the third-best in the country. Last weekend was important for their confidence too. For most of the season, Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews have been the two top scorers, but Michigan got production from their other starters. Jordan Poole led the team with 19 points, while Jon Teske finished with eight points and 10 boards and Zavier Simpson almost had a triple-double with a 9-9-9 stat line.
Pick: Michigan -2
These defenses are pretty even, so this one is going to come down to which team you trust more to score. To me, that’s Michigan. Brazdeikis is a match-up nightmare that’s hitting over 40 percent from downtown, and both Matthews and Brazdeikis can get off their own shots. The success of the other starters showed they can step up and carry for spurts, and I think that’s something Texas Tech lacks.
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