Michigan and Texas will face off for the third time in in the last three years tonight (9 p.m., ESPN2). The Wolverines won the previous two matchups, but have yet to face the Longhorns in Austin.
This year’s Texas team also appears to be Shaka Smart’s best yet with several returning starters, an impact transfer, a new point guard and a five-star big man with a ridiculous 7-foot-9 wingspan.
The Longhorns enter tonight’s game with a 6-2 record and a resume that includes wins over Butler and VCU along with overtime losses to Duke and Gonzaga at the PK80 in Portland. Both losses saw incredible momentum swings as Texas let a lead slip away against Duke and made a dramatic comeback of their own against Gonzaga only to lose in overtime.
Texas has struggled a bit offensively this season and will be without its leading scorer and best shooter in sophomore guard Andrew Jones. Jones fractured his wrist in a win over VCU last week and he’s the only Longhorn to have made double digit 3-pointers this season.
Overall, the Longhorns are ranked just 78th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. The strength of the Texas offense is its ability to value the basketball and score inside the arc. 58.5% of Texas’ points this season have been scored on 2-point shots, the 12th highest rate in the country. The Longhorns shoot 57% on twos (27th) and just 28.7% on threes (327th) for a 52.1 effective field goal percentage (133rd).
Despite a massive lineup — the Longhorns are ranked 47th nationally in average height — Texas is just an above average rebounding team. The Longhorns rank 108th in offensive rebounding rate and 157th in defensive rebounding rate.
Texas had a top-25 defense last year, despite finishing the season with an 11-22 record, and has added one of the best defensive anchors and rim protectors in college basketball in Mo Bamba. This isn’t quite Michigan State’s interior defense, but Texas opponents are shooting 43.6% on twos (36th) and 28.2% on threes (17th) for a 43.2 effective field goal percentage (14th). The Longhorns block 16.8% of their opponents’ two-point attempts (14th) and have only allowed over a point per possession twice this season: versus VCU and Duke.
Junior four man Dylan Osetkowski is a transfer from Tulane who plays a key role in the Longhorn offense. Osetkowski can play out of the post, get after it on the glass, handle the ball a bit on the perimeter, and will attempt an occasional three-pointer. Despite his versatile skillset, he hasn’t been the most efficient player this season. He’s just 5-of-24 from three-point range (with 3 of the makes coming in the last game against VCU) and is shooting just 51% on twos. Synergy grades him in just the 44th percentile in post-up efficiency, but he’ll have an advantageous matchup against Duncan Robinson.
As noted, sophomore guard Andrew Jones is out with an injury. The Longhorns have a 53.1 eFG% (31.8% on threes) this season with Jones on the floor and just a 48.9 eFG% (21.5% on threes) when he’s off the floor, per Hoop Lens.
6-foot-11 big man Mohamed Bamba is a familiar name to Michigan fans after the Wolverines were heavily involved in his recruitment. He’s the No. 6 shot blocker in the country and is capable of some incredible plays with his unique 7-foot-9 wingspan. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress. Over half of his points this season have come off of putbacks or cuts to the basket and he grades out in just the 16th percentile in post-up scoring.
Kerwin Roach is an explosive guard who shoots 78% on twos with most of that production coming at the rim. Roach shoots 83% inside the arc and he’s only made 7 shots outside of five feet, per Krossover. Roach only shoots 27% on threes and 48% on free throws, but he’s a good passer who can create opportunities off the bounce.
6-foot-2 freshman Matt Coleman has stabilized the point guard position for Shaka Smart. He can find his teammates and doesn’t turn the ball over, but he’s been limited offensively. He’s shooting just 37% on twos and 28% on threes through 8 games this year.
Michigan native Eric Davis comes off the bench this year for Texas. He’s known as a shooting threat, but he’s only shooting 55% on twos and 26% on threes this season. Davis should see an increased workload with Jones sidelined and he’s certain to have some extra motivation playing against his home state school for the third year in a row.
Sophomore Jacob Young and 6-foot-5 freshman Jase Febres could also see an increased workload with Jones sidelined. Young is a 6-foot-2 guard who has made 9-of-11 twos and 7-of-19 threes. Febres has been far less efficient, making 2-of-9 twos and 4-of-17 threes.
- 2-point scoring: Can Michigan score inside against the Longhorns’ length? Moritz Wagner has struggled in some matchups against longer or more physical defenders and Mo Bamba will certainly challenge his ability to score around the rim. Michigan shot just 48% on twos against Texas last year and things should be even more difficult inside this year.
- Try zone defense? I suggested this in the last preview and we didn’t see it for a single possession, but Michigan has at least shown 2-3 zone in its game at Ohio State and if there’s ever a team begging to be zoned it is Texas. The Longhorns grade out in just the 37th percentile nationally in zone offense, per Synergy, and have faced it on almost a fifth of their offensive possessions.
- Contain Osetkowski: Osetkowski is the most versatile offensive player on the Texas roster and he plays the position that might be the most difficult for Michigan to guard. His mediocre efficiency numbers mean that Michigan might have a chance to contain him, but there’s little doubt that Texas will play through the 6-foot-9 four-man early and often.
KenPom projects a 65-60 win for the Longhorns and gives Michigan a 31% chance at the upset. Those numbers don’t account for the absence of Andrew Jones which should provide Michigan with a boost, but Las Vegas has the Longhorns favored by 6 points even with the news of Jones’ injury. Michigan has struggled on the road in non-conference play, but a win in Austin has the potential to polish up a non-conference resume after a disappointing trip to Maui.