Michigan to Test ‘Foot Speed' of Texas' Bigs

Caris LeVert

With an obvious size advantage for Texas in the frontcourt, Michigan and their perimeter weapons will look to draw out Cameron Ridley and take advantage, not unlike the Wolverines' approach in several games this season.

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. -- A match-up of opposites in some respects will take place Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center between No. 2 seed Michigan and No. 7 seed Texas.

Both teams do have size advantages though, believe it or not.

For Texas, the beef in the middle is hard to miss with 6-foot-9, 285-pound center Cameron Ridley and 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward Jonathan Holmes.

Together, the Longhorns have length, toughness, the ability to stretch the floor with Holmes outside shooting and shot a blocking presence inside when perimeter breakdowns bite them.

Looking at Michigan, the size is shifted. Sure, Jordan Morgan stands a solid 6-foot-8, 250-pounds, but it’s the Wolverines’ wings that will create an issue for Texas.

Undersized and once again playing the four spot is 6-foot-6 Glenn Robinson III to go alongside Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas and perhaps the most improved player in the country in Caris LeVert, both of whom are also 6-foot-6.

With long arms and an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot it at a high percentage from the outside, the Wolverines could look test the Longhorns big men, drawing them away from the basket similar to their strategy against former Michigan State center Derrick Nix.

“With that it’s just really testing their bigs foot speed and how well they’re going to guard the ball screen,” Nik Stauskas said Friday. “With our offense, that’s something we do a lot so, maybe that tires them out a little bit more and maybe throughout the game (they) just wear down.”

Reading exactly how Texas defends Michigan’s pick and roll, especially in the early going of Saturday’s game, could go a long way in dictating who advances to the Sweet 16.

Already with experience against a team with great size, length and quickness in a non-conference home loss to Arizona in December, Michigan can also look to their conference opponents as good barometer’s for how to handle themselves with Ridley and Holmes hedging out high.

“We have a couple of teams in the Big Ten, Purdue (A.J. Hammons), namely that we played recently,” Jeff Meyer said. “Ohio State, that has some really good length and ball screens you try to utilize our strength of using those high ball screens to create some actions that will help our guys.

“That’s one area of attack we hope maybe we can find some looks.”

For Michigan and Coach John Beilein this isn’t exactly new territory, going in knowing their perimeter players will need to knock down shots, running sets with four out, one in.

The real difference maker could be Robinson III, after going 6-of-14 shooting for 14-points against Wofford, moving around and attack Holmes could prove vital despite the potential mismatch at the other end.

“I think anybody that we play really, that we have to spread them out and we need to make shots from the outside,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “So whether they’re bigger -- you take their perimeter players, they play small with the one, two and three a lot of their minutes. So, they’re still going to be into some guys. But it is important that we can stretch people, we can penetrate.

“Love the way Glenn Robinson shot the ball yesterday because he is a good shooter and his numbers may not reflect that. He can shoot.

“So it’s important that we just hit outside shots, but we have to have a mixture. You just can’t go into this game and say, okay, we’re only going to shoot from the outside. You certainly have to drive the ball as well, throw the ball inside.”

Showing a great ability to penetrate, draw contact and finish through it, Michigan freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. won’t look to alter his fearless approach at the rim despite the near 100-pound difference between he and Ridley.

“With a guy that size he don’t have to jump as high,” Walton Jr. said. “You try to look for other ways to attack him, get him in the air and find another guy or get the ball out of your hands before he can get off his feet.

“You kind of tweak some things but it’s kind of the same attack.”

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