Mike Lantry, 1972
|WHAT||Michigan v. Kansas|
December 19th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan +13.5*|
*Lines brought to you by the best sportsbook on the internet.
The Wolverines finally stopped the bleeding on Sunday with a win over Detroit, but the task won't be so simple to duplicate in Lawrence. Traveling to face the number one team on the road is seen by the Wolverines as an opportunity. "I don't think it's different from the UConn trip [last year]," said DeShawn Sims, "We definitely need it. There's not going to be too many opportunities besides the best teams in the Big Ten."
A win Saturday would not only redeem a lackluster non-conference performance from the Wolverines, it would also prove something to the team itself. "It would just show that we've made some adjustments since the early part of the season," said Sims, "We're becoming more comfortable with what we have now, and coach made some great adjustments this week and last week. We're just finally coming along, coming around the corner."
Beilein, whose teams have performed their best when they have a lot of time to prepare for a single game, says he doesn't change anything in the team's preparation: "We do the same thing that we've done for any game we ever play, really. We don't go in there to do anything except to do our best. Whether we're playing one of our early season games or we're playing the #1 team in the country, we just expect to try to play our best."
What, specifically have the Wolverines been working on in practice over the long week? "We've been working on a lot of different things. A lot of man-to-man defense, a lot of boxing out," said Beilein.
The return of a fully healthy Zack Novak, who played against Detroit at less than 100% and missed the Utah game entirely, should be some help to Michigan.
The Jayhawks are the number one team in the nation for a reason. They've run roughshod over every team they've played except for Memphis and, oddly, UCLA. "There's certain times when you'll go into some of these arenas, and I would expect I'll look around and go, 'so this is Kansas,'" said Beilein said. Sims knows the crowd will play a huge factor. "I've seen Kansas on TV and you can definitely hear the crowd through the TV," he said.
The Jayhawks' roster is loaded. Two of the top players in the country, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, roam the floor in Lawrence. They get Xavier Henry a lot of good looks, helping him to one of the top eFG% numbers in the nation. "You've got the great combination of inside-outside threats," said Beilien. "You've got Collins, who by by himself can win a game. Aldrich inside, he's just a mountain with really long arms. And now Henry's shooting over 50 percent? He's getting some pretty good looks because he's got a great point guard and a great center." Adding, uh, injury to more injury, guard Brady Morningstar will make his season debut for the Jayhawks after serving a DUI suspension.
For a team struggling like the Wolverines, Kansas will be a difficult matchup. Beilein: "They rebound and they guard and they have assigned tasks and they're just difficult to stop."
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Kansas: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Kansas Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Kansas Def eFG%||236||2||KKK|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Kansas eFG%||231||6||KKK|
|Mich TO% v. Kansas Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. Kansas TO%||36||18||K|
|Mich OReb% v. Kansas DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. Kansas OReb%||319||10||KKKK|
|Mich FTR v. Kansas Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. Kansas FTR
|Mich AdjO v. Kansas AdjD||156||6||KK|
|Mich AdjD v. Kansas AdjO||153||2||KK|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc. I swear I'm not a Klan member.
Commence the fetal position and whimpering. Kansas is better than Michigan at almost everything. The Wolverines might get a couple turnovers, but they haven't had to defend a player like Cole Aldrich yet, and the opponent free throws might be misleading in this instance. Michigan's worst aspect, defensive rebounding, is one place Kansas really excels. This is a major statistical mismatch.
The only way to see Michigan coming away with a win is to make a couple assumptions. 1) Michigan has been playing well below their potential this season (something most observers would agree with). 2) Michigan is capable of turning around and playing well above that potential in a road game against the top team in the country.
Zack Novak thinks that's a possibility, saying "It's gotta bring the best out of you. We're looking forward to the challenge." There's something to be said for a John Beilein-coached team playing very well with a long break between games to rest up (Manny Harris didn't practice on Wednesday, according to Beilein) and prepare a gameplan. Still, the task may be too tall to accomplish.
This is a game that Michigan should be lucky to keep close. If the 3s start falling, like they did in last year's upsets over UCLA and Duke, there's a chance to be within striking distance in the second half. More likely, the team has a couple of those offensive slumps that we've come to know and despise and the Jayhawks capitalize with big runs and an eventual 20-point win.
Also, not Kansas-related, but 2010 MI SG Trey Zeigler talked to WDFN yesterday about various topics, including his recruitment. If Manny leaves following this season, Zeigler becomes a must-land prospect. Duke is getting involved.