NCAA Tournament Preview: Tulsa

Submitted by Ace on March 15th, 2016 at 4:28 PM

Tourney Previews Have a Sponsor (via Seth): My good friend Matt Demorest has built himself a nice little niche mortgage business in Southeast Michigan. I had a rather complicated FHA refinance for my house last fall, and despite that it a) took less of my time than filling out my bracket, b) cost half of what I paid to do our original loan, and, c) saved me so much the refi's already paid for itself.

Last Friday I then watched him blow everything he's made from advertising here so far on a signed Jim Harbaugh Ann Arbor Pioneer helmet.

If you're buying a house around here, or if you've got one and have "yeah I should look at getting in on these rates" rattling around in your head, give him a ring. His ticket offer is still going so if you close you can use them for football tickets this fall.


WHAT #11 Michigan (22-12, 10-8 B1G) vs
#11 Tulsa (20-11, 12-6 AAC)
Dayton, Ohio
WHEN 9:10 pm ET, Wednesday
LINE Michigan -1 (KenPom)
TV TruTV (find channel here)
PBP: Carter Blackburn
Analyst: Mike Gminski

Right: Guard Shaquille Harrison is tough to keep away from the hoop. [Photo: Matt Barnard/Tulsa World]


Nothing of major note here. The ankle injury Ricky Doyle suffered against Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament opener didn't prevent him from being the primary backup center against Purdue in the semifinals—he played 11 minutes to nine for Moe Wagner. Michigan should play their normal, senior-less rotation.


Win or go home. The victor will take on six-seed Notre Dame at approximately 9:40 pm on Friday.

The projections have this one close with Michigan holding a slight edge. KenPom favors the Wolverines by one point and gives them a 51% chance at victory. FiveThirtyEight gives Michigan a 54% win probability. The Vegas line favors the Wolverines a bit more; it's settled in at Michigan -4.


Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss SIBMIHHAT
G 3 Shaquille Harrison Sr. 6'3, 189 80 27 Yes
Slasher, good finisher, solid passer, good steal rate. Not an outside shooter.
G 10 James Woodard Sr. 6'3, 192 82 22 No
36% 3P shooter on high volume. Can also get to the hoop and finish.
G 11 Pat Birt Jr. 6'5, 182 67 22 No
Just A Shooter™ type making 37% of 3PA, about two-thirds of shots are threes.
F 1 Rashad Smith Sr. 6'7, 205 49 20 Yes
Good offensive rebounder, solid athlete, finishes well around the rim.
F 44 Brandon Swannegan Sr. 6'9, 209 49 17 Very
Solid offensive rebounder and shot-blocker, finishes his opportunites, gets to line.
G 15 Marquel Curtis Sr. 6'3, 202 60 17 Yes
Inefficient despite low volume, not a good outside shooter. Decent OReb%.
F 40 D'Andre Wright Sr. 6'9, 245 44 17 Very
Tulsa's biggest player, but not a great rebounder, shot-blocker, or inside finisher.
G 5 Rashad Ray Sr. 5'11, 172 44 15 Kinda
Good distributor but not much of a scoring threat: 40/32/60 shooting splits.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


After taking a deep dive into Tulsa's statistical profile and also watching their early-season victory over Wichita State, I think this matchup is ideal for Michigan. Tulsa is a high-tempo team that relies on guards getting to the hoop and eschews post-ups almost entirely; they look to get out in transition off of turnovers; they play high-pressure defense with a lot of zone and give up a lot of three-point attempts. They fit the profile of teams that John Beilein's squads have traditionally done quite well against, especially in the postseason.

Frank Haith's offense features a lot of pick-and-rolls for guards Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard, both of whom are solid finishers at the rim even when faced with opposing centers. They both take care of the ball despite going off the dribble frequently. They have the two highest defensive rebounding rates on the team—a Michigan-like necessity given Tulsa's lack of a real post presence.

That's where the similarities between Harrison and Woodard end. Harrison is a much more willing passer; he also has little outside shot to speak of (7/40 from three on the season). Woodard, on the other hand, takes more threes than twos and hits 36% of them. The Shot Analytics charts display the stark contrast in their games:

Keeping Harrison out of the paint is paramount. It's also not easy. He's quick, a good ballhander, makes tough shots, and knows how to draw (and, on occasion, exaggerate) contact and get to the line.

Helping Michigan in that regard is the fact that Tulsa isn't a good outside shooting team. Woodard is one of only two above-average shooters in the rotation; the other is Just A Shooter™ type Pat Birt, who made 37% of his 211 3PAs but only 40% of his 105 2PAs this season. Michigan should be able to stick Duncan Robinson (or Aubrey Dawkins) on Birt and hide his defensive shortcomings without putting anyone else in a mismatch situation.

Starting four Rashad Smith is a plus offensive rebounder and good finisher around the hoop; his range doesn't extend much beyond the paint and he's the most turnover-prone non-center in the rotation. While he's a good athlete, Zak Irvin has faced far more difficult matchups this season; Smith isn't a Swanigan-type who will overpower him.

Seniors Brandon Swannegan and D'Andre Wright split minutes at center pretty much down the middle; both stand at 6'9", and while Wright is much burlier, he's not as good as Swannegan at offensive rebounding, shot-blocking, or scoring at the rim, and he's more likely to cough up the rock. Their defensive rebounding rates are both in the Mark Donnal range. This isn't a team that's going to overwhelm Michigan in the post, and as long as the bigs block them out, they're not going to get a significant scoring impact from their centers.

Backup guards Marquel Curtis and Rashad Ray don't help Tulsa's outside shooting woes; Curtis is a 29% three-point shooter, Ray 32%. Curtis is a decent slasher with a knack for getting to the line, where he shoots 67%, while Ray is out there for his passing and on-ball defense—he's not much of a scorer.


Tulsa split their season series against both UConn and SMU, two teams that handled Michigan rather easily in non-conference play. Their best win otherwise was their ten-point November triumph at home against Wichita State, though that game had some fluky aspects; star WSU guard Fred VanVleet was limited with an injury and the Shockers had an unusually bad shooting performance while Tulsa hit an uncharacteristic 10/22 three-pointers.

The Golden Hurricane went 8-10 against KenPom top-100 teams this season; their lone bad loss came at home against #169 Oral Roberts. (Nice.) They weren't expected to make the NCAA field in large part because they got blasted by Memphis, 89-67, in their first game of the American Conference tournament.


Full-season statistics.

Four Factors explanation

As Dylan pointed out in his first look at Tulsa, few teams in the country are as good at gaining extra possessions through winning the turnover battle as the Golden Hurricane:

graphic via UMHoops

Michigan has the ninth-lowest turnover rate in the country, which should negate one of Tulsa's biggest advantages against their average opponent.

On offense, Tulsa relies on good two-point shooting (51%), a high free-throw rate, and good turnover prevention to overcome their bad three-point shooting (33%). On defense, they lean on a high-pressure, zone-heavy approach that nets them a high number of turnovers but also cedes a lot of great looks from the perimeter, especially above the break:

The Wolverines have four rotation players who are very good above-the-break shooters from one side or the other; Zak Irvin and Aubrey Dawkins shoot a great percentage from the left side, Duncan Robinson and Derrick Walton do the same from the right. While Tulsa has a good two-point defense, they lack an imposing rim protector; Michigan should find success running the pick-and-roll.

You'll hear about Tulsa's remarkable experience several times; they have nine seniors, making them first in KenPom's experience metric and seventh in his minutes continuity stat—their turnovers tend to be products of well-timed swipes on drives instead of mental errors. They're also undersized; they rank in the 200s in rebounding on both sides of the court.


Stay in front of Harrison. I don't have to tell you that Michigan hasn't been great at preventing opposing guards from getting to the basket, and Shaquille Harrison is particularly adept at blowing by defenders despite his lack of an outside shot. That said, Tulsa doesn't have the shooters or post scorers to prevent Michigan from helping on Harrison, and Derrick Walton raised his level of play on defense towards the end of the season—most notably against Yogi Ferrell in the BTT. Walton and MAAR are going to defend a ton of pick-and-rolls against this team, and their approach will differ greatly depending on whether the ballhandler is Harrison or Woodard—while they can go under the screen on the former, the latter will make them pay for doing so.

Minimize live-ball turnovers. As noted above, Tulsa is especially turnover-reliant, and while Michigan isn't likely to close that gap on defense, they can do so on offense by taking care of the ball like they usually do. Tulsa looks to run off turnovers, rebounds, and even opponent made baskets, and they're really good at finding Harrison on the run for a drive to the bucket...

...or hitting Woodard for a quick-strike three. Meanwhile, they're not much of a halfcourt team. If Michigan doesn't get pressured into too many turnovers, they should win this game.

Make them earn it. Tulsa looks to get to the rim on just about every possession and most of their players are high-percentage finishers near the basket. Outside of Woodard (78% FT), however, they're bad at capitalizing on their free throws; their 68% mark from the line as a team ranks 280th nationally, and their top scorer in Harrison is just a 64% free-throw shooter. Michigan should be willing to rotate through their bigs a little more than usual if they're preventing easy buckets at the rim by fouling; that's not a bad play in this game given Tulsa's poor free-throw shooting and lack of the type of post threat that would make Mark Donnal foul trouble a serious problem.


Michigan by 1.

The Wolverines have had a lot of success against high-tempo, turnover-reliant teams under John Beilein. I expect that to continue tomorrow night.


Hotel Putingrad

March 15th, 2016 at 4:34 PM ^

but I seem to recall a high number of turnovers against Purdue last time out. I want this game played slowly and from behind the arc. I really want to get into the "real" dance.

Yinka Double Dare

March 15th, 2016 at 4:41 PM ^

The difference between the Vegas line and the KenPom line can be called the Haith Dividend. I'm sure the sharps took one look at the coaching matchup and the initial line and pounded Michigan hard.


March 15th, 2016 at 5:06 PM ^

Man, would that be nice.  The hype that VCU and their "havoc" defense had going into that game was crazy. Pundits picking them left and right, the whole nine yards.  The whole time I kept thinking, "haven't they heard about Trey Burke"?


March 15th, 2016 at 5:59 PM ^

anyone besides Caris will be making the NBA from the current crop?  Not being sarcastic, genuinely curious.  It seems each of them, though YOUNG I KNOW, seem to have either a lack of a certain skill set or not quite the right skill set to make it.


March 15th, 2016 at 5:34 PM ^

Rarely, but they exist.

There's another reason for the name...

Some think the nickname was originated by Ohioans in 1835 during a dispute over an Ohio/Michigan boundary called the "Toledo Strip." This dispute became known as the Toledo War. Though Michigan and Ohio both sent troops to the area, no shots were ever fired. It's said that Ohioans, at that time, referred to Michiganians as " vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines."



March 15th, 2016 at 4:59 PM ^

Lack of Tulsa towers in the middle makes me feel good about this.

Worry if...

we go 0 for 8 at any point

we shoot less than 30% 3 pointers

Cackle with knowing glee...

we have 3 or more steals for dunks

everyone contributes, there are no starters without at least 4 baskets



March 15th, 2016 at 5:56 PM ^

I think we can beat Tulsa, ND, and WVU.

We lucked out getting three teams built more similar to Indiana than Purdue. 

All three are high tempo, guard oriented teams. 

Basically comes down to who is hitting their 3's. Let's hope we get hot and stay hot. Starting strong against Tulsa will give confidence going forward. 

I say we exit against Xavier in the Sweet 16.

Go Blue!


March 15th, 2016 at 7:02 PM ^

According to CBS Sports, for whatever it's worth, the "public" odds are 76% that Michigan wins. And that's actually a higher percentage than any other team got for their chances of winning their first game, whether it be in the round of 68 or 64.