Harold Shelton III, BTN Studio Researcher, March 21, 2018
Michigan and Purdue are two wins away from the Final Four. Before entertaining thoughts of a trip to San Antonio, though, the Big Ten tourney champs and the conference's highest-seeded team have interesting Sweet 16 matchups.
[ MORE: 16 Big Ten facts entering Sweet 16 ]
Here are the stats for why Michigan and Purdue should win, and could lose.
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Texas A&M – Thursday
Why Michigan should win
- This is easily John Beilein's best defensive team in Ann Arbor, ranking third in the nation in defensive efficiency, after never finishing higher than 37th previously.
- Texas A&M has never advanced past the Sweet 16 in its history.
- Michigan is as hot as any team, winning 11 straight games, seven of which have come by double digits.
- Charles Matthews plays his best in non-conference games, averaging 17.4 points on 56.8 percent from the field; in two NCAA tourney games, he's leading the Wolverines with 15 ppg and 8 rpg.
- Texas A&M has a turnover problem, turning it over on more than 19 percent of its possessions (232nd nationally). True freshman T.J. Starks has 11 turnovers in the NCAA tourney, so PG Zavier Simpson could make things hard on the Aggies offense.
- The Aggies make just over 33 percent of their 3-point shots (263rd), and shot just 66.4 percent from the free-throw line (320th).
How Michigan could lose
- The Wolverines are shooting under 40 percent, including 28 percent from long range, in the first two rounds.
- Texas A&M ranks ninth nationally in defensive efficiency and eighth in blocks, swatting more than 15 percent of opponent's shots; it also ranks in the top 20 in 2-point defense (45.1 percent) and 3-point defense (31.8 percent).
- The Aggies grab 34 percent of their misses and outrebound opponents by 6.5 per game, which ranks 18th nationally. Michigan is 175th nationally, outrebounding its opponent by 0.7 boards per game.
- Texas A&M is very tall and very long, ranking sixth nationally in terms of average height. Its starting frontcourt is 6'9", 6'10" and 6"10, and it brings a 6'10" center off the bench.
- The Aggies play mostly man, but will mix some zone in as well. The last time Michigan faced a team that played a good amount of zone was Northwestern, when they scored 52 points, in what turned out to be its last loss.
No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 3 Texas Tech – Friday
Why Purdue should win
- Purdue ranks second nationally in efficiency and second in 3-point shooting, making 42 percent of its attempts; it also ranks in the top 25 in fewest turnovers and top 40 in 2-point shooting.
- Purdue's defense isn't too shabby either, ranking in the Top 30 in efficiency and 19th in 2-point defense (45 percent).
- Like Purdue, Texas Tech isn't great on the defensive glass, ranking 141st in defensive rebounding.
- Vincent Edwards, always a solid NCAA tourney performer (17.6 ppg in seven career games), is averaging 17.5 points on 60 percent from the field in the first two rounds.
- Texas Tech puts teams to the line a lot, ranking 272nd nationally in opponents free-throw rate; meanwhile Purdue doesn't foul much at all as they are sventh in opponent's free-throw rate.
- The Red Raiders aren't a good free-throw shooting team, making fewer than 70 percent of their attempts (254th).
How Purdue could lose
- If Isaac Haas (elbow) misses his second straight game, it limits Purdue offensively, as the big man is second on the team in scoring (14.7) and shoots 62 percent. If Haas can't play, Matt Haarms would likely start again and there wouldn't be much behind him in terms of depth.
- Purdue's lack of depth behind Haas could show itself against an athletic Texas Tech frontcourt. Teams are shooting just 39 percent against the Red Raiders in the NCAA Tournament and have been outrebounded by five rebounds per game.
- Texas Tech ranks fourth nationally in defensive efficiency, while also ranking in the Top 15 nationally in 2-point defense (fewer than 45 percent) and effective field goal percentage.
- The Red Raiders create havoc on defense, forcing turnovers on nearly 22 percent of opponent's possessions (17th), and ranking in the top 40 nationally in blocks and steals.
- Purdue star Carsen Edwards has made just 8 of 29 shots through two games (27.6 percent), and has just two assists compared to three turnovers.
- Keenan Evans is averaging 22.5 points in the first two rounds and has gone to the line 15 times.