The 6-2 Texas Longhorns host the 8-3 Michigan Wolverines tonight at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Dan Shulman will be calling his fourth Texas game of the year with Dick Vitale alongside.
In recent years, John Beilein has had Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns’ number. Dating back to the 2013 NCAA Tournament in the second round against Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams, Beilein is a career 3-0 against Smart-coached teams. This includes a victory in the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2015 and a three-point victory at home last season. It’s time for things to change this year.
Despite the Longhorns being without leading scorer Andrew Jones, they’re currently a five-point favorite over the Wolverines.
Here’s my three keys to the game for Texas in tonight’s match up:
Eric Davis Jr. and Jacob Young need to step up in Jones’ absence
Andrew Jones is an irreplaceable player and one that Texas could not afford to lose to injury. Jones has been the most consistent three-point shooter and best scorer on the team, by far. But, the next man up mentality is in effect.
It’s time for Eric Davis Jr. and Jacob Young to shine. Assuming Davis gets the start, Young will most likely be the first guard off the bench.
Last year in Ann Arbor, Davis and Young combined to shot 4-for-15 overall and 1-for-8 from three. Tonight is a chance at redemption for the two. Davis is playing against his home-state Wolverines so this will be a very important game for the Michigan native.
If Davis and Young can knock down open threes and play at a high level on the defensive end, the end result should be positive. Freshman guard Jase Fabres should get some action tonight, too.
Establish the bigs presence down low
Michigan is very undersized in the frontcourt this season, which gives Texas a major advantage. The only concern is that Bamba has yet to have a good game offensively against higher-level competition. This would be the perfect game to do just that.
The Mo vs. Moe matchup will be interesting. Moritz “Moe” Wagner is currently Michigan’s leading scorer, averaging 16.1 per game and shooting 56 percent from the field. He dominated against Jarrett Allen offensively in last year’s matchup. Wagner poses a challenge for Bamba defensively, as he’s very skilled at his size. But, he struggles with size on the defensive end and we’ll see if Bamba can exploit that weakness.
This leaves Dylan Osetkowski matched up against Duncan Robinson. Osetkowski should touch the ball every single possession if Michigan continues to put the thin, 218-pound Robinson on him. This is the biggest mismatch of the game and Texas needs to take advantage of it, as Osetkowski is too strong for Robinson to handle.
The major point of emphasis for the ‘Horns needs to be dominating the paint in this one.
Make Michigan’s point guards beat you
After having elite point guard play for the last decade, the point guard play has became the biggest problem offensively for Michigan. All three of their true point guards are averaging less than 5.0 points per game. Zavier Simpson (SO.) and Eli Brooks (FR.) will get most of the action at the point guard position.
Michigan is one of the best teams in the nation at taking care of the basketball and not turning it over. But, with Texas’ length and athleticism against Michigan’s unproven point guards, the “Havoc” pressure may be in effect. Force the Wolverines to deal with pressure that they’re not accustomed to seeing. Michigan is good in the halfcourt offense, so a change of pace doesn’t hurt.
With Kerwin Roach Jr. defending Michigan’s best scorer/shooter (whoever is on the floor) and the defensive presence of Bamba down low, Simpson and Brooks are going to have to make some big plays offensively in this game.
Texas 71, Michigan 64. The size and length of Texas will be too much for the Wolverines in the end. Shaka Smart will earn his first win over his kryptonite, John Beilein.