Can Rob Gray lead the Cougars to an upset over the Wolverines or will Michigan focus and flex in their second game?
The Michigan Wolverines will enter this West Region game in Wichita, Kansas, with the realization that they got away with a bad offensive performance in the first round against Montana. Houston played one of the more thrilling NCAA Tournament games of Thursday by beating San Diego State on a Rob Gray spinning layup with 1.1 seconds left.
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
Against the spread this season, Michigan was 23-11-1 after Thursday night’s game against Montana. The Wolverines have done really well against strong offenses this year, going 13-5 ATS and 15-3 SU versus good offensive teams scoring 77+ points per game. They’re also 13-5 ATS and 14-4 in their last 18 against teams with a winning record.
Houston was 18-10-1 against the spread entering its first-round game against San Diego State. They have thrived against winning teams this season, covering 10 of their last 15 while winning 11 of those games outright. Their offense has done well against strong defenses, as they are 6-2 SU when facing a team that allows 64 points per game or less.
The best player in the first round of this NCAA Tournament was Rob Gray of Houston. That’s not hyperbole. Gray scored 39 points, but that’s hardly the whole story. He was also the best player on the floor in the last few minutes. San Diego State knew he would get the ball and take the big shots, and he still made them. A defense tried to stop him but could not. Gray scored on three-pointers and also on a layup to win the game, going through the teeth of the defense.
Gray’s 39 points enabled Houston to win despite not getting double-figure scoring from other players. Devin Davis went just 4 of 14 from the field, and Casey Davis, Jr. went 2 of 10 from the field. The Cougars will have to get better efforts from the Davises. Houston also benefited from San Diego State missing 14 free throws. If Michigan is merely solid at the line, Houston might run out of fortune.
The Wolverines entered the first media timeout of their game against Montana on Thursday – at 15:59 of the first half – trailing 9-0. Michigan went through multiple periods of three minutes or more against Montana without hitting a single field goal attempt. With 5:30 left in regulation against Montana, Michigan had failed to score 50 points. If Michigan fans had known their offense would score that poorly for most of the game against the Grizzlies, they probably would have had a panic attack.
What saved the day for Michigan was its defense. Montana went over eight minutes without scoring in the early portion of the second half. The Grizzlies were unable to build on their early lead because Michigan prevented them from going on an extended run. Michigan committed 14 turnovers and hit just 5 of 16 threes, but when the Wolverines were able to limit Montana to 3 of 15 threes and only 19 second-half points. Michigan’s defense bailed out the offense, but the team knows its offense has to be much better against Houston. Michigan hit just 14 of 22 free throws, which could also be a problem if this game against Houston is close.