There may not be a team that has dominated its first two Games in the Tourney as much as Tennessee has (after their First 4 Game). It’s going to be a much tougher task going against Michigan, but surprisingly the Wolverines are only -2 point favorites as the No. 2 seed.
After coming back and beating Iowa in overtime in their First 4 Game, the Volunteers went on to win three Games in five days behind a 19-point win over UMass and 20-point win over Mercer. Granted, they were favorites in both of those Games, it’s still pretty impressive. They don’t have much bench production, but all five of their starters have been great, all scoring double digits in at least one of the Games.
Michigan is getting less hype than last year when they made a run to the championship Game as a 4-seed, but that doesn’t mean you should take them lightly. The Wolverines looked iffy at times against Wofford, but used 14 three-pointers to keep Texas in check despite losing the rebound battle.
This is another Game in which Michigan could be outrebounded in, especially after seeing Tennessee out-rebound Mercer by 22. This is a Volunteers squad led by juniors and seniors at all five positions, which you don’t see too often these days from bigger Conference teams. Jarnell Stokes has been beasting on the boards, averaging 15 in the last three Games, while Jeronne Maymon is at about nine per Game in those same ones. The bad thing for Michigan is that those guys don’t just rebound, Stokes is one of their leading scorers and is averaging more than 20 points over the last three.
Michigan barely used Jon Horford last Game against Texas, but they exploited the Longhorns’ size on the offensive end which led to open three-point looks. They’ll likely do the same in this Game. While Stokes and Maymon will have the edge on the offensive end, can either of them guard someone like Glenn Robinson III or Nik Stauskas? No. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Volunteers mixed it up and went with some kind of zone defense. Credit has to be given to Michigan big man Jordan Morgan though, who has recorded a double-double in two straight and is vital to the team’s chances at advancing.
Tennessee has a middle-of-the-road three-point defense and if Michigan is hitting their shots like they were last Game, it could be a long day. The Wolverines had six guys hit threes against Texas, and all of them shot at a 44% rate or better which is incredible. Nik Stauskas was the only one to shoot below 50%. Stauskas along with Robinson, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. have become super-efficient on the offensive end and considering Tennessee isn’t known for their defense, will have an edge there.
On the other end, the Volunteers have some shooters as well, albeit less efficient. Jordon McRae, Josh Richardson and Antonio Barton can all can Scoreif needed. Due to both teams having a short bench, it’d be a wonder if one of them tried to attack the basket a little more to get players into foul trouble.
Tennessee has a huge rebounding advantage and if Michigan aims to get guys like Maymon or Stokes into foul trouble, that would make things a bit easier on the Wolverines. Both teams have distinct advantages, but it’s all about executing those advantages into your Game plan. The line was set close for a reason, it’s going to be good one.