Coming off an emphatic 88-56 first round victory over Longwood, Tennessee left little doubt as they get set to roll into a Round of 32 matchup against Juwan Howard’s Michigan Wolverines.
How to watch 11) Michigan vs. 3) Tennessee
Date: Saturday, March 19
Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
How to watch: CBS, March Madness app
Opening Odds: Tennessee -5.5 (per DraftKings Sportsbook)
Michigan, the 11-seed, defeated 6-seed Colorado State 75-63 in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament without senior guard DeVante’ Jones, one of Michigan’s best all-around players, who missed the game due to a concussion. Though the seeding would indicate this as an upset, DraftKings had the Wolverines as a 1-point favorite as early as the morning of. As a team, Michigan shot 54.2 percent from the field and 19-of-22 at the free throw line versus Colorado State’s seven attempts at the charity stripe.
Eli Brooks notched a full 40 minutes and added 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Brooks got anything he wanted off the dribble, creating open opportunities for Caleb Houstan beyond the arc and Hunter Dickinson inside. Dickinson led the way with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting as four Wolverines reached double figures. Michigan dominated the glass, and though they turned the ball over 15 times, their wide open looks and Colorado State struggling to make shots nullified those.
As for the Vols, they had their way with 14-seed Longwood to the tune of a 32 point dominant win. Five Volunteers cracked double figures with Santiago Vescovi leading all scorers with 18 on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Check out a full recap of the Vols’ victory here.
With this matchup, it truly comes down to whether DeVante’ Jones plays or not. With Chandler and Vescovi shooting as well as they are and how much Zeigler impacts the game defensively, Michigan has to have Jones on the court to match up with the Vols’ guards and allow them to get some depth. They got next to nothing out of Kobe Bufkin off the bench in the first round. In fact, Michigan only got 4 bench points against Colorado State in total.
The Vols are really starting to hit their stride, and there is no better time to do it than in March. Tennessee shot a season-high 60 percent from the floor against Longwood, and Fulky gave the Vols some much needed offensive production inside, cracking double digits in the first half and providing the spark that lit the net on fire for Tennessee.
Josiah-Jordan James will once again prove to be the X-factor for Tennessee in this Michigan matchup. James scored 17 points against Longwood as he faced very favorable, small matchups against the Lancers. Michigan boasts power conference size, however, and depending on Tennessee’s lineup, it will be 6-foot-8 Caleb Houstan across from him when Barnes goes to his two-big lineup, or he could see 6-foot-11 Moussa Diabate, a player he should be able to take off the dribble.
Despite being 17-14 heading into the tournament, Michigan is much better than their record and their 11 seeding. However, Tennessee will be the best defense Michigan has faced all season. Michigan is a very young team overall, but they have a very seasoned backcourt with both Brooks and Jones being seniors with loads of tournament experience. The fantastic defensive trio of guards the Vols have will create substantially more ball pressure than Colorado State did, and making Michigan’s guards uncomfortable is the key to shutting their offense down.
A lesser piece that, should it happen, could give the Vols a huge advantage towards a win is getting offensive production inside. Being a bit undersized, John Fulkerson has potential to really give Dickinson fits.
Fulky has really become Tennessee’s glue guy, and similar to how he went at Oscar Tshiebwe, him having the ability to extend Dickinson out to the three point line and take him off the dribble could be vital for both spacing and getting Dickinson in foul trouble. It’s something Colorado State did a few times and found success with every single time. Why is this so important? Michigan is 3-7 when Dickinson commits four or five fouls. They lack a consistent inside presence offensively when Dickinson isn’t on the floor. Diabate has potential to be that good, but he’s still a vast drop-off from Dickinson.
Overall, this is a tough 11-seed draw for the Vols. However, arguably no one is playing as well as Tennessee since February and especially this month. Michigan has been up and down all season, and they haven’t strung together consecutive wins since early February when they beat Penn State and Purdue. As long as Tennessee’s big four contributors—Chandler, Vescovi, JJJ, and Zeigler—continue to make the same impact they have been all month, they can beat any team in the nation.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.