Texas A&M Basketball: Behind enemy lines with the Michigan Wolverines

WICHITA, KS - MARCH 17: Jordan Poole
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 17: Jordan Poole /

Texas A&M basketball plays Michigan on Thursday in the Sweet 16. We sat down with GBM Wolverine site expert Chris Peterson to get the inside scoop on UM.

After a dominant upset win over the defending National Champions, Texas A&M is moving on to their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in program history. Despite several trips, the Aggies have yet to break through and reach the Elite 8. Could the fifth time be the charm?

To make history this Texas A&M squad will have to beat Michigan, this season’s Big Ten tournament champions. The Wolverines dispatched of Montana in the first round fairly easily, but needed a miraculous buzzer-beater to beat Houston in the Round of 32. Was that the last bit of luck for the maize and blue, or will the Wolverines send the Aggies home from the dance?

We sat down with Chris Peterson, the site expert at FanSided’s Michigan fan page GBM Wolverine. He gave us the inside scoop on this Michigan squad and what to expect in the Sweet 16 pairing on Thursday.

Q: Michigan has had better seasons on the hardwood than the football field recently. Is Michigan becoming a basketball school?

Peterson: I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but I think it’s at least becoming equal. The basketball program has always been pretty big, especially with the national title in 1989 and the Fab Five in the 1990’s. Then there was a long dark spell, more than a decade without a tournament berth.

Now, John Beilein has taken Michigan to the tournament, eight times in 11 years, this is the fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in the last six years and they are back-to-back Big Ten Tournament champs. Football is losing its footing a little, especially because basketball is beating Michigan State and Ohio State consistently.

Q: What was the reaction to Michigan playing Texas A&M instead of North Carolina?

Peterson: Michigan fans wanted to play North Carolina, just because the Tar Heels beat the Wolverines earlier in the season, so some wanted to get some revenge. But I don’t get a sense that fans believe the game will be an easier.

Texas A&M destroyed North Carolina and I think that woke everybody up to how good this team is. And at this point in the tournament, no matter who you play, it’s going to be a battle.

Q: Which player has been the most impressive for Michigan in the NCAA Tournament so far?

Peterson: This is a tough one, because honestly, Michigan hasn’t played up to par. Moe Wagner, its best player, was plagued by foul trouble in both games. The best guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was 0-of-6 from 3-point range in the second round game. Zavier Simpson, the point guard has really impressed with his defensive work and Duncan Robinson hit three really clutch 3-pointers to help beat Houston. I guess the team defense is the most impressive thing, that and Jordan Poole hitting one of the biggest shots in Michigan history.

Q: How do teams beat Michigan? What is the Wolverines’ biggest weakness?

Peterson: Michigan can be a tough team to beat, because it’s pretty balanced. The Wolverines have a very good defense, but over the years, are known for their offense and are good there too. They also do a good job of not turning the ball over and generally not fouling.

Fouls however are a weakness for their best player. Wagner gets in foul trouble a lot and that will come back to bite them if it keeps happening. Poor free throw shooting is another thing.

For the most part, the defense gives it a chance to win just about every game. But when Michigan is hitting from deep, it’s a very hard team to beat. UM made the 25th most 3-pointers during the season and I believe is 11-3 when making 10 or more 3’s in a game. So getting them into foul trouble and defending the 3-point line is how teams have beaten Michigan.

Q: What is the x-factor for Michigan on in the Sweet 16? Michigan wins if…

Peterson: It is making its 3-pointers. There are other ways Michigan can win and score, but if the Wolverines are hitting shots from deep, watch out.

Q: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) How confident are Michigan fans that the team will beat Texas A&M? Why?

Peterson: I’d say a 4-5. Not super high. Michigan fans aren’t a confident bunch for a lot of reasons. For starters, the team wasn’t great in either of its win, so I don’t see fans brimming with confidence. However, they do know their team is good and is now the highest-seed remaining in the West Region.

Next: Post game player grades from win over North Carolina

I think fans believe this team is capable of getting to the Final Four, but is just as capable of losing out in the next round. It’s not a familiar opponent either. Michigan fans feel good about their team, but not overconfident in the slightest.