Patrick Hruby is doing God's work.
Death From Above: Arkansas
|WHAT||Arkansas at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan –19(!) (Kenpom)|
Last year's game at Arkansas was something of a nightmare, as the Razorbacks pressed like madmen, hit their first 11 shots from the field, and held on for a two-point victory as Trey Burke's attempted game-winner rimmed out. In the aftermath, I called the game "about as bad as it gets from a fan perspective," and I stand by that statement.
This year, the result projects to be a little different. Arkansas will still bring their "40 Minutes of Hell" full-court press and look to push the pace, of course. As you're well aware, however, this isn't last year's Michigan team, and this game takes place in Ann Arbor, not Fayetteville. Meanwhile, Arkansas has struggled to a 4-3 start, albeit against a difficult schedule. KenPom gives Michigan a 93% chance of winning, which, like, woah.
Sophomore guard B.J. Young runs the show for Arkansas and leads the team in both points (19.5/game) and assists (3.7). He's the one player who can really create his own shot off the dribble—74% of his field goals come at the rim, and only 26% of those are assisted, according to Hoop-Math—and while he's only 3-21 from three this year, he was a 41.3% shooter from beyond the arc last season. Young is also remarkably adept at holding onto the basketball, sitting at 11th in the country in turnover rate.
Due to their frenetic pace, a large cast of characters will rotate into the lineup for Arkansas around Young, whose 62.5% of available minutes played leads the team. Joining Young in the starting backcourt are 6'2" junior Mardracus Wade and 6'5" sophomore Rashad Madden. Despite his size, Wade gets most of his shots around the basket and draws a lot of fouls (4.8 per 40 min.), while Madden is in the same mold but with fewer trips to the line—both have issues with turnovers.
6'3" guards Rickey Scott and Anthlon Bell get a fair amount of minutes; both have had terrible shooting seasons but take care of the basketball far better than Wade and Madden. 5'10" freshman DeQuavious "Dee" Wagner earned a start in their game against Oklahoma on Tuesday, but only played six minutes; he's a bit player currently boasting an extraordinary assist rate (32.7%) and good outside shooting (4-9 from three) in a pretty small sample.
6'7" junior power forward Marshawn Powell is the team's biggest threat outside of Young, shooting 52.5% from two and 43.8% from three this year while drawing a ton of fouls. He'll line up next to Hunter Mickelson, the 6'10" starting center, and 6'7" reserve Coty Clarke, who actually plays more minutes than Mickelson. Mickelson is by far the team's best shot blocker but is surprisingly absent on the offensive boards (3.7 OReb%), while Clarke is the best rebounder for the Razorbacks on both ends of the floor.
A couple freshmen—6'8" forward Jacorey Williams and 6'5" wing Michael Qualls—will rotate in as well; again, Arkansas goes deep so they can turn games into a 40-minute track meet on hardwood.
Arkansas's best victory came on Tuesday, a three-point home win over KenPom's #82 squad, Oklahoma. Their other three wins also came at home, versus #304 Sam Houston State (by only three—yikes), #346 Longwood, and #333 Florida A&M. They lost neutral-site games to #144 Arizona State and #9 Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Invitational and suffered a nine-point home defeat at the hands of #5 Syracuse.
The four factors for Arkansas paint a rather extreme picture:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||48.1 (171)||14.4 (1)||32.4 (160)||42.2 (74)|
|Defense||52.3 (277)||24.3 (53)||34.3 (233)||41.4 (246)|
The offense never turns the ball over and gets to the line frequently; they're an average shooting and offensive rebounding unit. The defense, well, it's turnover or death for the Razorbacks.
Other state of note: Arkansas is having a very tough year shooting the three (28.8%) but are solidly above average both inside the arc (50.0%) and at the line (72.8%). Their adjusted tempo is 12th in the country, naturally, in extreme contrast to Michigan (327th).
Hold onto the damn ball. I have other things, but the game pretty much entirely comes down to this. Michigan actually did a solid job of not turning the ball over against Arkansas last year after the opening blitzkrieg; unfortunately, there was the opening blitzkrieg. There are more guys to handle the ball this year than just Trey Burke, and in the comforts of Crisler that bodes well for Michigan. If the Wolverines don't cough up the ball against the press, it's tough to find a way that they lose this game.
Play your game. One of the cardinal sins when playing against an up-tempo press team is to get out of your offense and try to match their tempo. Despite running out on the break more often than in years past, Michigan is by no means an up-tempo squad. With Burke, Stauskas, Hardaway, and Albrecht, the Wolverines shouldn't be overwhelmed by the press. The key is, once they get the ball upcourt, to slow it down and run the offense. If Arkansas isn't forcing turnovers, they have a pretty awful defense; they'd like nothing more than for Michigan to throw gratuitous skip passes and alley-oops when they break across half court.
Keep Arkansas off the line. The Razorback offense largely relies on drawing fouls to generate points, especially if their outside shots aren't falling. Michigan is currently third in the country at keeping opponents off the free-throw line. This should be advantage, Michigan. If it is, it's going to take a herculean effort from Young just to keep Arkansas competitive.
Keep doing what you've been doing. I mean, yeah.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 19