Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Michigan Wolverines Pick
Texas Tech Red Raiders (28-6 SU, 17-16-1 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (30-6 SU, 21-15 ATS)
When: Thursday, March 28, 2019 – 9:40 PM ET
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TTU +1.5/MICH -1.5
Total: O/U 126
Last Time Out: Texas Tech defeated Buffalo 78-58; Michigan defeated Florida 64-49.
Scouting the Red Raiders:
Texas Tech’s second round game was hyped as a matchup between great offense and great defense, but it ended up not being much of a matchup. The Red Raiders shut down the Bulls’ vaunted offense, holding a squad that was averaging 85 points a game to a mere 58. Now they get the most unique challenge of the tournament: their virtual mirror image. Michigan, like Texas Tech, is a defense-first squad that can score when it has to, creating the rare instance of the Red Raiders trying to attack a team that does almost the same things that they do. Texas Tech does shoot it a little better than Michigan, mainly thanks to guards Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti.
Scouting the Wolverines:
And the men of Michigan appear to be back to their old selves at the best possible time. Michigan had been struggling for a while heading into this game, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that the Wolverines kept having to play Michigan State. With the Spartans in the rear view mirror, the Wolverines have gotten back to their winning ways by shutting down both Montana and Florida, giving up a combined 104 points in two games. Where they differ from Texas Tech is the source of their offense. While the Red Raiders’ strength is their guards, Michigan counters with solid play from the forwards, led by Ignas Brazdeikis, who can hurt opponents both inside and out.
Defense. If you like scoring in your basketball games, you might be better off going to bed after the first wave of games. Between this game and Virginia-Oregon, the second slate of Thursday night games might not feature 200 points combined between the four squads. Texas Tech and Michigan are the two best defensive teams in the nation, and it’s rare to see either of these squads give up 70 points in a game. These two teams aren’t as slow as Virginia, but they’re also not inclined to play particularly fast, making every possession critical. Whichever team is able to break through against the other defense often enough will be able to pull out the win here.
Texas Tech will Cover if:
The Red Raiders can force steals. Michigan doesn’t play quite as fast as Texas Tech does (which still isn’t very fast), which could make the Wolverines susceptible to being sped up by the Red Raiders’ defense. Texas Tech averages more than seven steals a game, and while the Wolverines don’t turn the ball over much, they also haven’t seen a defense as good as Texas Tech’s in a game situation.
Michigan will Cover if:
The Wolverines can win the rebounding battle. Texas Tech’s weakness on defense is that it’s not a great rebounding team, which came back to bite the Red Raiders in the Big 12 tournament when West Virginia dominated them on the glass and pulled a stunning upset. Michigan is not a great rebounding team either, but with center Jon Teske down low, the Wolverines have the potential to win this battle with the Red Raiders and extend their possessions. In this game, possessions will be at a premium, and anything that either team does to extend them will be huge.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This is probably the biggest coin toss of Thursday night’s games. These teams play similarly, and they’re both excellent at what they do. If you’re a basketball purist, this is the game of the tournament for you. Both teams are very well coached and very talented, but there’s one difference that leads me to the Red Raiders here.
Foul shooting. If you remember last year’s Michigan team, their Achilles’ heel was foul shots, unless the shooter was Duncan Robinson. Duncan Robinson’s in Sioux Falls with the Miami Heat’s G League team, and while the Wolverines are a better free throw shooting team this year thanks to Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole, they’re still not great from the line. With the game on the line, I want Davide Moretti and his 91.9 free throw percentage for Texas Tech. I’ll gladly take an extra point at 5dimes or MyBookie and a half to go with the Red Raiders.