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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M prepares to take on Michigan in the Sweet 16

Tyler+Davis
Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker
Tyler Davis

LOS ANGELES — Thursday afternoon, 7th-seeded Texas A&M will face 3-seed Michigan in the Sweet 16. These two programs met have only met on the hardwood once before when U-M head coach John Beilein was nine years old and A&M’s head coach Billy Kennedy was not even born yet.
That game ended with an 82-79 victory in favor of the Wolverines in Aggieland. Now 56 years later, both teams will clash in the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles hoping to keep its national championship hopes alive.
Beilein, who has never faced A&M in his 40 years as a head coach said A&M’s bigs — in particular sophomore Robert Williams and junior Tyler Davis — are two of the most athletic players he’s played against in recent years.
“They’re very talented, they’re skilled. They pass the ball well. They’re obviously a tremendous offensive rebounding team,” Beilein said. “The 12 offensive rebounds [per game] they’re getting is as high a number as we’ve seen this year. So that concerns us a great deal. They have really good guard play and change defenses.”
In the Aggies 86-65 win over reigning national champion North Carolina, the A&M defense blocked eight shots and stole the ball five times. Beilein said being able adjust to the Aggies’ size on the roster and the defensive scheme they run was a point of emphasis for the Wolverines during preparation.
Due to the grueling schedule that comes with playing in March, Beilein also said he and his team tried their best to prepare due to their limited time.
“We’re going to be as ready as we can be, given that we didn’t know much about Texas A&M until after great win against North Carolina on Sunday,” Beilein said.
For the Aggies, Michigan poses a trio of versatile players that can make plays from anywhere on the hardwood. Duncan Robinson leads the Wolverines with 73 total three-point field goals, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman trails with 65 and Moritz “Mo” Wagner is in third place with 56 — which according to the Michigan media guide, is the most for a player over 6-foot-11.
Kennedy said A&M has prepared to guard every player Michigan puts forth because they have the ability to make a shot regardless of where they are on the court.
“Then I think their personnel. The ability to shoot the three at every position, especially the five position, is something you don’t see,” Kennedy said. “So that’s where the challenges are going to be presented with our bigs being able to go out on the floor and guard them, and maybe their bigs being able to guard our bigs inside. I think that’s the biggest difference in how both teams will attack each other.”
In the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament against Providence and North Carolina, A&M dominated the boards. Williams said A&M will not let the opponent dictate the way they rebound the ball.
“Honestly, we’re always confident in our rebounding skills, no matter the task we’ve got ahead of us,” Williams said. “We feel like we take pride in rebounding, and our coaches stress that’s a big part of us winning. So, I definitely feel like we could control that part.”
Michigan’s Abdur-Rahkman is averaging 11.5 points a game in the tournament and is second in the nation leading in the assist-to-turnover at 4.48. Junior guard Admon Gilder said he looks forward to guarding him throughout the night.
“I think he’s a great player. He’s able to score from all three level,” Gilder said. “He’s able to get to the basket. He’s able to pull off from three range and shoot the three very well. It will be a nice match-up that we know we’re looking forward to.”
With a trip to the Elite Eight, A&M and Michigan will tip off at 6:37 C.T. and will be televised on TBS.

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