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Houston vs. Michigan,
3-17-2018 - Expert Prediction

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Game Snapshot with Current Line

#529 Houston
Cougars 134
#530 Michigan
Wolverines -3.5

Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 10:00pm

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Game Stats

Houston Cougars

27 - 7

18-12
ATS
13-17
O/U
77
PPG
64
OPPG

Michigan Wolverines

29 - 7

23-12
ATS
18-17
O/U
74
PPG
63
OPPG

No. 6 Houston (27-7 SU, 18-11-1 ATS, 13-17-0 O/U) vs. No. 3 Michigan (29-7 SU, 22-11-1 ATS, 15-17-2 O/U)

When and Where: Saturday, March 17, INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita, Ks., 8:40 p.m. EDT.

Coming off the best performance of the first day of the NCAA Tournament, Rob Gray looks to lead sixth-seeded Houston to its first appearance in the regional semifinals in 34 years Saturday when they face a red-hot third-seeded Michigan team in the second round of the West Region.

Gray powers Houston to first NCAA Tournament win since 1984

Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years, the sixth-seeded Cougars (27-7) picked up their first win since the days of Phi Slamma Jamma in 1984 as they edged 11th-seeded San Diego State 67-65 on Thursday night.

Gray sliced into the lane and dropped in a layup with 1.1 seconds left for the final two of his career-high 39 points before the Cougars survived a last-second potential game-tying jumper. Gray finished 12 of 25 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and scored 21 of Houston’s final 22 points.

Devin Davis and Corey Davis were the only other players with more than five points for the Cougars. They scored nine points apiece but were a combined 6 of 24, with Corey Davis missing all five of his 3-point attempts.

Houston shot 37.3 percent but committed only seven turnovers, matching a season low, while forcing 12. It was just the fourth time the Cougars were held under 40 percent in a game, and their 13 attempts from beyond the arc also matched a season low.

Gray is averaging 19.2 points and 4.4 assists and has made 35.2 percent from 3-point range. Corey Davis, though, has hit 102 shots from deep while making 43.0 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Armoni Brooks, who contributes 9.5 points per contest, has added 82 3-pointers.

Before edging the Aztecs, Houston had won both its non-conference games against NCAA Tournament teams, beating both Arkansas and Providence. The Cougars split six games against AAC rivals and fellow NCAA Tournament teams Cincinnati and Wichita State, losing two of three to the Bearcats and taking two of three from the Shockers.

Since they snapped a four-game losing streak in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and a five-game skid there overall, Houston can turn its attention to winning a fourth straight second-round game. The last three came at the height of the Phi Slamma Jamma days in which they reached three consecutive Final Fours from 1982-84.

Wolverines looking for fourth trip to NCAA regionals in six years

Third-seeded Michigan (29-7) shook off a slow start and an early 10-0 deficit to stifle 14th-seeded Montana 61-47 on Thursday night, extending its winning streak to 10 games.

It’s the longest run for the Wolverines since winning their first 16 games in 2012-13. That season ended with a loss to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament title game and marked the first of three runs to the regional semifinals or deeper in the last five years.

That is also the last time Michigan had a 30-win season as it finished 31-8.

Charles Matthews had 20 points and a career high-tying 11 rebounds while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman was the only other Wolverines player in double figures with 11 points despite shooting just 1 of 6 from 3-point range and 3 of 11 overall.

Michigan’s defense again answered the bell, limiting Montana to 32.1 percent shooting. The Wolverines have yielded 62.3 points per game during their winning streak, a slight improvement on their 63.1 mark that ranks eighth in the country.

Moritz Wagner, who leads the team with 14.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, will look to bounce back after being held to five and six, respectively, by the Grizzlies.

Matthews and Abdur-Rakhman have combined to average 25.4 points, and Michigan is hoping top 3-point threat Duncan Robinson can snap out of a shooting funk that has seen him go 2 for 10 from deep the last three games. Robinson has made a team-best 70 3-pointers while connecting at a 38.9 percent clip.

The Wolverines had gone 2-1 in non-conference action against the field of 68 before beating Montana, bouncing back from a loss to North Carolina with wins over UCLA and Texas. They went 4-3 versus Big Ten rivals in the NCAA Tournament, beating Michigan State twice and both Purdue and Ohio State once.

Trends:

Houston is:

  • 4-0 ATS last 4 after an ATS loss.
  • 5-1 ATS last 6 neutral site games.

Michigan is:

  • 1-6 ATS last 7 after allowing less than 50 points in their previous games.

The Wolverines have won two of the three games between the teams, but the most recent matchup came over 50 years ago when Michigan won 91-65 on Jan. 2, 1968.

The teams shared one common opponent this season in LSU. Michigan suffered a 77-75 loss in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 20, while Houston absorbed an 80-77 defeat on the road Dec. 13.

The winner of this game will advance to the West Regional semifinals to be played March 22 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Pick: Houston

Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73)

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is a freelance sportswriter based in Chicago. He has worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Can be followed on Twitter at @AlTruda73.

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