Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
Venue: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Where to watch: CBS
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Tennessee -6
BetMGM: Tennessee -5.5
Caesars: Tennessee -6
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Michigan - Tennessee preview and analysis
I don't think the Michigan Wolverines really expected themselves to be one game away from a Sweet 16 appearance, but somehow the NCAA tournament has made it weird enough to where we can actually look at this team and say they have as good a chance as any to make a deep tournament run.
and how crazy is it that we're actually talking about Michigan possibly making a deep tournament run? Because if you remember earlier in the season the Wolverines were one of those teams that we could actually look at and say if there was a national championship contender they would be it.
But then something happened along the way in the middle of the season where Michigan completely fell apart and to the chagrin of Michigan coach Juwan Howard, Michigan might have played its best basketball when Howard was suspended for that whole altercation after one of their games earlier this season.
But with Michigan coming off a 75-63 victory over Colorado State in the first round of the tournament on Thursday, Michigan has as good a chance as any to actually surprise some people and turn this team that was considered a contender early on into a very legit contender in March.
“It’s not easy for a lot of guys, so it was great to see him back,” Wolverines guard Jace Howard said. “Felt like we were a full team again and made us ready for (Saturday) even more.”
More importantly, Michigan was able to win this game without starting point guard DeVante Jones. Michigan floor general was in concussion protocol, but they do expect him to be available for Saturday's matchup.
Getting Jones back is going to help Michigan backcourt in a big way because of how badly they turned the ball over against Colorado State. Michigan turned the ball over 15 times despite shooting 54% from the floor and only four of 14 from 3 point range.
Jones is going to help in the assist department and is going to take a lot of pressure off the likes of Eli Brooks, who played all 40 minutes against Colorado State and had 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. If they can get another game from Hunter Dickinson like they did with 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting that is going to also help Michigan tremendously in this game.
But somehow someway in a twisted kind of way, the Tennessee volunteers find themselves as either the top or the second-best team in the SEC remaining in the NCAA tournament. No thanks to a school called Saint Peters for knocking off Kentucky, but it is the SEC champions who find themselves in this position to advance to the Sweet 16.
Tennessee got off to a strong start in their first-round matchup on Thursday against Longwood, shooting 60% from the field and putting up 88 points in a 32 point victory over the Lancers.
When you get five players scoring in double figures and you're still able to shoot more then 50% from the floor, you're doing something right. And this was also a perfect game for Tennessee to show they can actually hit the three-ball. Tennessee's ability to knock down long-range shots has hurt them at times, but ever since they started going on this run late in the season it's turned into Tennessee is a much more dangerous inside-out team.
Santiago Vescovi finished with 18 points, all of them on three-point bombs, going six of eight from the floor and also dishing out seven assists. Josiah James also had 17 points to go with nine rebounds while he missed only three shots, and the Vols also got 15 points in 16 minutes from John Fulkerson
“I think we’re playing really good basketball right now,” James said Friday. “I think we have a lot of areas that we can get better in. That’s the exciting part about it.”
I will tell you that this game has all the makings of the favorite winning. I don't naturally foresee Tennessee having much of a struggle against a Michigan team that I think we can all agree barely squeaked by into the tournament. However, if you are looking for a trap game, this might be the one. And it has nothing to do necessarily with what Tennessee can't do on the floor. It has everything to do with Michigan finally showing its full potential. And somehow if Michigan gets hot from the floor, it's going to have a long-lasting effect with how it will handle things as the game goes on.
At the end of the day, I have more confidence in how Tennessee has played over the last month and a half than I have with Michigan. I think Tennessee is a much better team, a much better defensive unit, and their ability to shut down some of the top teams in the SEC over the course of the last 6 to 8 weeks has been about as impressive of run as anyone could have ever guessed from this group. It would not shock me if Michigan was able to keep it close and eventually pull off the upset, but Tennessee is in the right track and I think that's going to ultimately prevail from a complete basketball standpoint. Tennessee by 8
Michigan is 1-10 ATS this season after covering two of its last three.
Michigan is 22-26 ATS after a game in which it covered.
Tennessee is 12-2 ATS this season after an over.
Tennessee is 13-21 ATS in a tournament game since 1997.
Projected starting lineup
PG: Eli Brooks
SG: DeVante Jones
SF: Caleb Houstan
PF: Moussa Diabate
C: Hunter Dickinson
PG: Kennedy Chandler
SG: Santiago Vescovi
SF: Josiah James
PF: Brandon Huntley-Hatfield
C: Uros Plavsic
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