NCAA 2014: Michigan vs. Texas Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: No. 2 Michigan (26-8, 14-3 B1G) vs. No. 7 Texas (24-10, 11-7 Big 12) texas_longhorns_logo-803[1]
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
When: 5:15 p.m., Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, 92 Sirius, 191 XM

Michigan and Texas are two of the four youngest teams in the NCAA tournament, but the similarities stop there.  There won’t be many NCAA tournament match-ups that pit teams as different as Michigan and Texas this March.

The Wolverines are an embodiment of offensive efficiency. Michigan rarely turns the ball over, shoots it well from every spot on the floor, avoids fouling and often concedes offensive rebounds to get back on defense.

The Longhorns rely on size, strength and brute force. Texas is one of the worst shooting teams in the country and its offense amounts to little more than throwing the ball up toward the rim and going to get it.

Michigan is the third-best shooting team in the NCAA tournament, Texas is the third-worst. The Longhorns are one of the best offensive rebounding teams, Michigan is one of the worst. Texas didn’t have a great season, finishing 11-7 in the Big 12 and only outscoring its conference opponents by .01 points per trip, but this will be a difficult prep on short rest for a Michigan team that starts a 6-foot-8, 250 pound big man and a 6-foot-6, 240 pound power forward.

Dustin Johnston

The Longhorns

Texas ranks 240th or worse in every shooting stat there is: two-point shooting, three-point shooting, free throw shooting and effective field goal percentage. Putting the ball in the basket is a chore for the Longhorns, but there aren’t many teams that are better at cleaning up the mess. Texas rebounds 39.4% of its missed shots, sixth best in the country.

The Longhorns are ranked 47th in effective height and do a great job of protecting the rim. Texas is ranked 7th in block percentage and 15th in two-point defense. Given their interior defensive prowess, it’s not surprising that opponents attempt a lot of threes against the Longhorns. 35.6% of opponents’ field goal attempts are threes (239th) and they connect at a 34.7% (196th) rate. Texas only forces turnovers on 16.5% of its opponents’ possessions (285th) and has been foul prone at times, allowing a free throw rate of 41%. Texas is undefeated when it holds opponents below 1 point per possession, but is just 6-10 when allowing 1.01 points per trip or more.

Texas grades out as a very good ball screen defense, but its transition defense is questionable. The Longhorns surrender 1.14 points per transition possession, 27th percentile per Synergy. Given Texas’ youth and offensive rebounding aggression, transition opportunities should be available for Michigan if it can hold its own on the defensive glass. 


Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor averages 12.5 points and 3.9 assists per game for the Longhorns. He’s a jet-quick guard that does almost all of his work in the paint. 72% of his field goal attempts are in the paint this season and he’s only made five threes in over 1000 minutes this season.

imageClick to Enlarge – More Shot Charts at Shot Analytics

Taylor loves to shoot the floater in the middle of the paint, a third of his field goal attempts are in that area of the court, but he shoots just 28% from there. The floater is a difficult shot, but perhaps Taylor needs to diversify his game.

Texas’ arsenal of post players is what will cause concern in Michigan’s locker room leading up to tip-off. Cameron Ridley stands 6-foot-9, 285 pounds and Jonathan Holmes stands 6-foot-8, 240 pounds. Physically they are the most imposing big men that Michigan has dealt with since facing Florida State in Puerto Rico.

imageClick to Enlarge – More Shot Charts at Shot Analytics

Ridley is a foul magnet. He attempts 83 free throws per 100 field goal attempts, the 22nd best free throw rate in the country, but he only shoots 62% at the stripe. He’s a legitimate post-up scorer, averaging 0.851 points per post-up possession (55th percentile nationally, per Synergy) and he shoots 55% on twos. He has the strength to move opposing post defenders and if he gets near the basket he has no problem finishing.

Holmes is a stretch-four man that can stick threes (35% on 79 attempts), block shots and rebound on both ends of the floor. Holmes leads Texas in scoring at 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and he’s a versatile scorer.

imageClick to Enlarge – More Shot Charts at Shot Analytics

He only has about a third of the post-up possessions as Ridley, but he’s ranked in the 86th percentile nationally in post-up efficiency. He should get plenty of opportunities to exploit his size advantage over Glenn Robinson III.

Javan Felix developed a three-point shot over the off-season (34% on 175 attempts, up from 26% on 47 attempts), but he’s still a dreadful scorer inside the arc. Felix shoots just 38% on two point attempts and attempts a lot of shots in the mid-range. He appears to be the primary threat to knock down corner threes if Michigan goes with its 1-3-1 zone.

imageClick to Enlarge – More Shot Charts at Shot Analytics

Demarcus Holland plays the third guard spot for Texas. He’s the lowest usage starter and least efficient player in the Longhorn rotation. He shoots just 45% on twos and 29% on threes and has struggled with turnovers. Connor Lammert, Martez Walker and Prince Ibeh are the top three options off the bench. Lammert is a 6-foot-9, 235 pound stretch four that can hit the three (35%) and crash the glass. Ibeh is backup center that does the majority of his work on the glass and finishing at the rim while Walker is a Detroit native and shooter.


Play zone defense

Texas scores .819 points per possession against zone defenses, per Synergy. That ranks in just the 28th percentile nationally and the Longhorns have seen zone defenses on nearly a third of their offensive possessions. The following scatterplot shows how much zone defense Division I teams have faced and how effective they’ve been scoring against the zone.

Data: Synergy Sports

Teams like Michigan, Wisconsin and Oregon, who are coincidentally all playing in Milwaukee this weekend, are zone-busters but opponents have realized that. Texas is in the bottom right quadrant of the chart where teams get zoned often, but can’t score. Michigan has two options with the 1-3-1 and the 2-3 and I suspect they’ll both be used a fair amount.

Keep Morgan out of foul trouble

Jordan Morgan has played against Derrick Nix, so he’s at least familiar with the type of challenge that Ridley presents. The biggest key for Morgan will be to avoid picking up cheap fouls so that he can stay on the court and make Ridley work for his offense.

Staying out of foul trouble and keeping Texas off the line is an important goal on the team-level as well. The Longhorns are just 4-8 when they manage a free throw rate under 40% and are 20-2 when they top that number.

Box out

Texas can be so dominant on the offensive glass that this one seems obvious. Michigan has been an average defensive rebounding team (ranked 53rd nationally), but this will be one of its strongest tests. It’s worth pointing out that offensive rebounding doesn’t necessarily correlate with success for the Longhorns. Texas is 9-6 in its 15 best offensive rebounding games, but is 8-2 in its 10 worst offensive rebounding games.

Basketball revolves around putting the ball in the basket and shooting is perhaps the top barometer of the Longhorns’ success.  Texas is 3-8 when it has an effective field goal percentage under 45%, but it is 21-2 when it tops that mark (with both losses coming to Oklahoma).

Bottom Line

Texas has a lot of talent, but hasn’t been able to put everything together consistently this season. The Longhorns lost six of their last 11 games entering the NCAA tournament and KenPom likes Michigan by a score of 73-69.

  • EchoWhiskey

    Maybe this is stating the obvious, but it seems like this game will swing on Michigan’s ability to make decent looks from 3. Texas plays a fair amount of zone and I think the shots will be there; it’s just a matter of knocking them down. I like our chances in a bounce back from a woeful offensive performance in the opener.

  • wil

    Unfortunately boxing out and zone tend to be negatively correlated.

  • Tony DeMaria

    Hate to be the guy that looks ahead because Texas will be tough, but I’m liking a UMass/Tennessee/Mercer draw for S16.

    • ChathaM

      I wonder whether secondary market ticket availabililty for Indy will skyrocket now that Duke is out.

      • arsenal926

        don’t think so, there weren’t too many Duke fans when they played in Indy last year. Louisville and even Kentucky are probably the big ones to watch out for. One of those two lose and I think tickets will go down some.However, Indy is enough of a hoop crazed city that it may not go down much at all. Believe they’re making the capacity 45,000 at Lucas Oil, so that is probably low enough for there still to be a strong demand for tickets.

        • Tony DeMaria

          There’s a groupon out there right now for $41 tickets ($82 for both sessions) next weekend but the seats are all the way at the top of Lucas Oil.

    • Nate

      Tennessee is preferable to Duke, but that’s still a very dangerous and underrated team.

      • guestavo

        Not remotely true.

      • Epicrapbattlechem

        when I think of good basketball teams, the SEC is where I look….

        • Chazer

          Sarcasm? Bazinga!!!!

          Go Blue!

        • Ben Sheler

          Georgia is getting demolished by La Tech in the NIT, 39-13 right now. They had a better conference record than Tennessee.

          • guestavo

            Means nothing. Stop looking at records and look at matchups.

  • Truth

    Bye Bye Jabari! Hello Mercer!

    • Ben Sheler

      One and done!

  • kam

    Bye duke!!!

    • jakerblue

      pretty good couple of years for the a-sun

  • countourzealous

    Woohoo, eff you Duke!

  • Meeechigan

    Texas is a big problem first and foremost!!!

  • chazer

    Wow Duke DONE! I almost feel like I need an open thread for the next two weeks!
    CANNOT overlook Texas….really tough out for the team!
    Shoot the rock Baby!!

  • Truth

    Mercer played with a ton of poise down the stretch with the refs helping Duke, and they didn’t tighten up or make stupid mistakes. Loved that baseball pass for an easy layup to break the suffocating in-bounds press. This young UM team could learn something from re-watching the Mercer game (not just in terms of scouting them).

  • guestavo

    Tennessee is a better team than Duke and if I wasn’t biased, I’d favor them against us.

    • Tony DeMaria

      KenPom is really going to be validated even more if Tennessee keeps advancing.

    • Tom

      Definitely don’t think they’re better than Duke, but they’re much better than the normal 11 seed– this is a good article on their odd profile:

    • Chezaroo

      Amazing the Vol fans were calling for Martin’s head three weeks ago!

    • Truth

      And if Iowa had pulled it out against Tennessee, we’d all be saying “Iowa is way better than an 11 seed”, “a tough matchup for Michigan”, “length/speed/athleticism/etc.” We said the same things about Florida last year until we embarrassed them by 25. You could also say the same stuff about UCLA, UNC, ASU, MSU, OSU, Kansas, Oregon, ad infinitum — many good teams are bigger and stronger than us, and yet we would be favoured against most of them.

      We’re not a big team — I don’t think JB recruits “big” teams, which is a separate matter — but we are very athletic and we’ve been among the very best for two years straight. There are no easy outs in March, but who can deny that an up-and-down Tennessee with tons of losses in the weak SEC is a better matchup for us than a Duke team featuring Jabari Parker and Hood. Oh, and if we somehow face a green, undisciplined Kentucky team a week down the road, I don’t want anybody to say “Ahh shucks, tough matchup.” It’s March — of course it’s gonna be tough! That’s what we signed up for!

      • guestavo


        • Truth

          “No” to you. Why don’t you just go cheer for State.

      • kam

        To be fair Tennessee is a worse match up for Michigan than duke in a lot of peoples eyes including kenpom.

      • Sarah

        Thank you. Its March. All teams are tough including us! Go Blue!!

  • MLaw

    Make your 3s and pray the fouls get called at least evenly. There will be a ton of contact in this one. If Ridley initiates contact, he has to pick up at least some offensive fouls.

  • gobluemd16

    This is just a game where it feels like JMo will get a couple cheap
    fouls (charges/verticality, but player bumps into his chest where refs
    love to call it) and we will have to rely on our other centers. It’s
    gotta be a whole team effort to stop their big men down low and then
    rebound as a UNIT to end the defensive possession. I expect a LOT of
    double teaming, or at least “showing” in the post. This way, Texas has to beat us with jump shots
    and JMo/Jon have a lesser chance of picking up a foul if Ridley and
    Holmes have to kick it out to the perimeter. Hold them to around 10 offensive rebounds and I like our chances..