The third-seeded Michigan Wolverines are moving on to the Elite Eight of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament following a 99-72 victory over the seventh-seeded Texas A&M Aggies on Thursday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
It’s the third time in John Beilein’s 11 seasons as the head coach the Wolverines have reached the regional final.
Michigan will meet either the No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs or No. 9 Florida State Seminoles in the next round.
Moritz Wagner had the hot hand, scoring 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and making all three of his three-pointers. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored a game-high 24 points while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Zavier Simpson was a nightmare for Texas A&M, finishing with six steals and five assists.
Michigan took control right from start, opening the game with a 22-8 run before taking a 52-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The first half couldn’t have gone much worse for Texas A&M. The Aggies turned the ball over 10 times and allowed the Wolverines to shoot 57.1 percent from the field. Michigan was also 10-of-16 from beyond the arc.
Those 10 turnovers played a big role in Texas A&M’s poor defense. The Wolverines hammered the Aggies in transition and scored 15 points off turnovers through the first half.
It’s exactly what Michigan needed to find its shooting stroke after the team made just 39.7 percent of its field-goal attempts and 28.3 percent of its three-point attempts in their first two games of the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines came into the game 99th in the country in three-point percentage (36.4) this season.
Both CBSSports.com’s Tom Fornelli and the Detroit Free Press‘ Nick Baumgardner thought Texas A&M offered a helping hand with its lack of effort on the defensive end:
While some Wolverines fans were likely content to see Michigan up 24 points at the half, New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. wanted to see his alma mater put the Aggies to the sword:
Texas A&M started off the second half well offensively, hitting seven of its first 10 shots. Despite that, the Aggies were unable to significantly eat into their deficit. By the time Tonny Trocha-Morelos connected on a three-pointer with 14 minutes, 35 minutes left in the game, Texas A&M still trailed 66-44.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over at halftime. Michigan cooled off a bit but not to the extent it opened a door for the Aggies to come back. In general, Texas A&M wasn’t built to score a high volume of points in a short amount of time, either.
A&M fans will be underwhelmed by the way the season ended, but two trips to the Sweet 16 in three seasons is a sign head coach Billy Kennedy has the program going in the right direction. Texas A&M only loses two players to graduation, so the Aggies are positioned well in 2018-19.
Entering the NCAA tournament, many identified the Wolverines as a team that could make a deep run based on their nine-game winning streak—Michigan was peaking at the right time.
Texas A&M, however, illustrated how all of that momentum can be undone in one game. The Aggies had won five of their previous six games before Thursday, a stretch that included an 86-65 demolition of the second-seeded defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels. But things quickly went off the rails for A&M against Michigan, and there was no coming back.
Michigan looked great Thursday, but the Wolverines could have their hands full with Gonzaga or Florida State, especially if their shooting regresses to where it was for the bulk of this season.