#11 Tulsa (20-11) vs #11 Michigan (22-12)
When: Wednesday, March 16th 2016
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH
Time: 9:10 ET | TV: truTV
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane and Michigan Wolverines will play in the last of the First Four contests to kick off the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday night. Tulsa is the team being talked about the most as far as the bubble teams go. Many thought Monmouth deserved the spot over the Golden Hurricane, who ended the season with a 22-point loss to Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Tournament last Friday. Tulsa was down as much as 31 points in that contest, but their resume includes wins over fellow tournament teams Connecticut, Temple, and Wichita State. Tulsa ranks eighth among the 68-team field in turnover margin this season (+3.5) and run a three-guard offense. James Woodard leads the team in scoring (15.6 points) and is only the third player in school history to compile 1,800 points and 700 rebounds. He also ranks second in rebounding (5.2) and assists (2.4). Fellow senior Shaquille Harrison is second in scoring (14.8) and first in rebounding (5.5) and assists (4.1), and became the first player in Tulsa history to post 1,300 points, 400 assists and 200 steals in his career. Pat Birt (12.4 points) rounds out the trio and averaged 21.7 points in the first seven games of February before averaging just fewer than nine over the team’s last three games.
Michigan came into the Big Ten Tournament as a bubble team, but pretty much punched their ticket with an overtime win over Northwestern last Thursday and a dramatic win over top-seeded Indiana the next afternoon. Before that, Michigan had lost four of their last five regular season games. Kameron Chatman, who averages just 2.9 points a game, hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in the win over the Hoosiers. Michigan, which lost both of its senior captains (leading scorer Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht) to season-ending injuries, is back in NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the last six years. Derrick Walton Jr. (11.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists) has been the team’s most consistent all-around performer all season long and had 14 points in Saturday’s 76-59 loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Semis. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (8.2 points) essentially filled the void left behind by LeVert (16.5) since the team’s leading scorer played his final game on February 13th, as Abdur-Rahkman scored in double figures six times over his last seven games and averaged 14.7 in three Big Ten tournament games. Zak Irvin (11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds) fell of his 14.2 point average from a year ago, but averaged 20.3 points in the Wolverines’ three upsets of ranked Big Ten opponents.
The winner will get Notre Dame on Friday. Tulsa wants to prove that they really do belong in the Big Dance, but as far as I can see, they don’t. Michigan is more battle tested for a game like this despite not having LeVert. They should be able to handle the Golden Hurricane and advance to the next round.
Pick: Michigan -4