Houston, Michigan Likely Going Down to Buzzer in West Second Round

Jay Pryce

Friday, March 16, 2018 1:36 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 16, 2018 1:36 PM UTC

Defense will dominate when sixth-seeded Houston squares off with three seed Michigan in the West Regional’s second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday. Look for this matchup to be determined at the buzzer.

No. 6 Houston vs. No. 3 MichiganWest Region, Wichita, Saturday, 9:40 p.m. ETFree NCAAB Pick: HoustonBest Line Offered: Intertops

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To make a deep tournament run, teams need that one player who can take over a game and carry his peers. Houston has its man in Rob Gray, as evident by his heroics in its 67-65 first-round win over San Diego State. The 6-foot-1 senior guard hit the game-winner and proved the only Houston player to sink a basket in the final 15 minutes and 59 seconds. Gray, who leads the squad with 19.2 points per game, dropped a career-high 39 points, his fourth time reaching the 30-point mark in the last eight games. The game plan moving forward is simple: Keep giving Gray the rock.

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Rob Gray would not let Houston lose tonight. pic.twitter.com/2mfkipdmBK

— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 16, 2018
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Houston struggled with San Diego State’s size and length early in the contest, but attacked the hoop and drew a litany of fouls after the break. Gray took charge, as the team looked to get the Aztecs in foul trouble. Much of the second half was played at the free-throw line. The Cougars will likely have a similar attack against Michigan. The Wolverines, nearly as long as San Diego State, allow just 24.3 percent of opponent shot attempts at the rim, the eighth lowest rate nationally. The Aztecs ranks ninth (25.0 percent)

Michigan’s 61-47 first-round win over Montana was one of the ugliest games in recent tournament memory. A late tip, poor shooting and a 10-minute delay shortly after the half due to a power outage with the shot clocks marred the game. Both teams combined to go 39 of 103 from the floor. Yikes.

The Wolverines' defense deserves credit for the plodding victory, holding the Grizz scoreless for nearly half of the entire second half. It is stifling teams during its current 10-game win streak, allowing just 61.9 points per contest on 40.1 percent shooting. The offense, meanwhile, is doing a masterful job controlling possession and executing. It is averaging just 8.3 turnovers a night in this stretch. The 14 giveaways against Montana tied for second most all season for Michigan — hence the ugly.

Michigan coach John Beilein is 15-1 SU and 10-5-1 ATS as favorite on a neutral court in March all-time. His squad is covering a -6.0 average line by 5.1 points per game. Defense is key in this situation. The Wolverines are yielding 61.1 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting, almost identical numbers recorded during the current run.

History suggests taking the Wolverines in this spot, but this Cougars team is well-balanced and has the tools to upset here. The defense is just as stout. Since start of February, it allows 62.5 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting. It has held 11 of its last 13 opponents under their projected team total. The Aztecs were arguably as hot as the Wolverines headed into the Big Dance, yet were sent packing by this versatile Houston bunch. Don’t be shocked by a similar result here. The finish will look eerily similar to the Cougars’ opening win. Expect a buzzer-beater either way. Take the points with Houston.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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