I'll take "Signs You Might Be An Ag School for 1000, Alex."
Michigan draws the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in round one in what at first blush looks like a good draw. SDSU is #102 in Kenpom, a 13-3 Summit League team sporting a 25-9 record highlighted by a road win at three-seed New Mexico and uh… unhighlighted by ugly blowouts against Minnesota and Belmont.
HOWEVA, their jerseys are basically Generic State U from the Allstate Mayhem commercials, so, like, beware mayhem. Also they have a really good player, and that really good player did not participate in the Minnesota blowout. (Sprained ankle if you're curious.)
Though I did not pay much attention to the Jackrabbits earlier this year, I knew Wolters's name sounded familiar.
As the man said: eerie.
The 6'4" Wolters carries a heavier rebounding load and gets to the line a lot more, possibly because the Summit isn't too good at defending really good players, possibly because fouls exist in that league. Here he is putting 53 points on IPFW earlier this year:
Wolters size makes him an interesting defensive matchup. SDSU doesn't put a guy shorter than 6'4" on the floor, and Trey has to check someone. Can Wolters post up a la Chauncey Billups? Will Michigan swap a longer guy on him in an effort to disrupt his game? Would it be smart to give Trey some time against designated Stand In The Corner And Snipe Guy to save his legs?
There's no shortage of those corner snipers. SDSU surrounds Wolters with shooters, shooters, shooters. The tallest guy to get time, post-type substance Jordan Dykstra, shoots 43% from three on 128 attempts. They've got another 43% shooter in 6'6" swingman Chad White, who has the statistical profile of a corner gunner: 173 3PA, 78 2PA, 43 FTA, no assists, no turnovers, no OREB. The fourth option, shooting guard Brayden Carlson, also takes a majority of his shots from behind the line. He hits at a respectable 36% clip, so you can't leave him, either.
Dykstra is an interesting kid with a thick body who can drive and post up Summit-level athletes in addition to his Pittsnogle duties:
Physically it makes more sense for Michigan to have Morgan/McGary/Horford on him and let Robinson check the smaller Tony Fiegen, but in terms of game they might want to reverse that since the bigs are not as prepared to close out as a guy like Robinson. Dykstra is a beast on the defensive boards but doesn't do as much on offense because he spends a lot of time on the perimeter.
In terms of tempo style, White and Carlson are pretty much the same dude. Carlson is vaguely more likely to assist on something and less likely to hit a shot (45/36); White is a top-50 efficiency player (54/43) who mostly knocks down the looks Wolters sets up. At 6'6", he would be Nik Stauskas except he is just a shooter—only 16% of his attempts are at the rim.
The only guy who you do not have to close out is 6'7" post guy Tony Fiegen, who you are going to hate for reasons that have nothing to with Tony Fiegen. He is from Madison and looks like this:
He takes a lot of twos at a 55% clip. Hopping over to hoop-math, Fiegen ends up taking a lot of two-point jumpers (59%) compared to McGary and Morgan, who get about 75% of their looks at the rim. Not a whole lot else stands out statistically. He gets some rebounds, he does not block shots or get steals, he keeps out of foul trouble. He is a low-turnover guy for a post.
SDSU relies heavily on its starters. No backup gets more than 30% of available time, and SDSU is near the bottom of the country in bench minutes. Only three guys are in the 8-12 minute range. The first is Marcus Heemstra, the backup post. He shoots efficiently and is a little bit of a shot blocker; he's their best offensive rebounder as well. The second is Taevaunn "Don't Call Me Tayshaun" Prince, a low-efficiency guard who gets to the line a lot. The third is Jake Bittle, a freshman turnover machine.
SDSU played four major-conference or Belmont teams in their nonconference schedule:
@ Alabama: L 70-67
@ Minnesota: L 88-64 (Wolters did not play)
@ Belmont: L 76-49
@ New Mexico: W 70-65
They also lost at #302 Hofstra and had a couple of late-season nonconference losses against #241 Cal-Bakersfield and #139 Murray State. There's a profusion of close calls lurking once you drill down. SDSU beat Marshall, North Dakota, and Montana by one, the second in double OT.
Kenpom has the Summit League #23 of 32 conferences; the only top 100 team in it is North Dakota State. There are only two common opponents on the schedules of SDSU and Michigan: IUPUI and Minnesota. Both teams beat up on IUPUI, Michigan once, the Jackrabbits three times. Michigan beat Minnesota by eight; SDSU lost by 24.
Last year, 14-seed SDSU gave Baylor a game, eventually losing 68-60. SDSU led for much of the first half and it took the Bears 35 minutes to push their lead to double digits. Seven of the eight rotation players return from that team.
THAT NEW MEXICO GAME
Wha happen? Two New Mexico starters sat the first six minutes for being late to the game. This does not qualify as an excuse for them since SDSU arrived in Albuquerque fresh off a 1,200 mile bus trip, but when they returned New Mexico was in a seven-point hole.
Wolters went off, hitting 8/10 twos and going 9/11 from the line. The rest of the team shot okay from three and was decent from two. For its part, New Mexico shot poorly from two. It seems like that's an aberration on New Mexico's part more than anything else. SDSU is not a good defensive team, as we'll see.
Four factors. Ranks are in parentheses and out of 347.
Off. Reb. %
If this looks familiar, it should. Welcome to Poor Man's Version Of Michigan. If you've seen Michigan play, you have an idea of how SDSU games play out: a lot of made shots, not many turnovers or free throws either way. Michigan is better than the Jackrabbits in every department except getting to the line—ref grumble inserted—and defensive rebounding.
When Kenpom kicks in the schedule adjustment, though, things have a disparity to them. Michigan's offense is second and defense 58th; SDSU is 39th and 209th, respectively. That's not good:
Michigan has played just four Division I teams with a worse adjusted defensive efficiency this season; Central Michigan, Binghamton, Cleveland State and IUPUI. The Wolverines scored 323 points on 259 possessions in those four games.
If the Jackrabbits can keep pace with 1.25 PPP that'll be a a surprise. In conference play SDSU's defense was third, it's just that no one plays defense in the Summit.
Save #145 Montana, other 13s show better in Kenpom, ranging from #49 (play-in game participant Boise State) to #80 New Mexico State. Disclaimers about OHIO and Penn State and whatnot apply, but teams around SDSU in Kenpom include Oregon State (14-18 in the Pac-12), Rutgers, Texas, and hammered-by-Nebraska USC.
Switch everything! Switch a lot of things, at least. If it gets Michigan stuck in a bad matchup, okay. Gol dang this team can shoot it from deep. According to hoop-math, almost literally every three not launched by Wolters is assisted. Cutting down on opportunities to launch is key to avoiding the upset.
Close everything. Also, no sag. After watching most of the youtube items featuring Wolters, a pattern emerges in which Wolters gets kind of by his guy for a couple steps and then chucks it to a shooter, who has a step and then shoots. The guy has a step because the man on the perimeter has taken a useless half-step towards Wolters.
Split up the defensive duties on Wolters. Michigan may as well switch off who is the primary defender on Summit Trey Burke to give him different looks, keep guys from getting gassed on defense and having that impact their offense, etc. The guys surrounding Wolters aren't bad, but damn near every three they take is generated by Wolters doing something.
Trey: win matchup. If that occurs Michigan is good. Against a team with this defensive profile, he should. I'd be surprised if Wolters can stay in front of the guy and once Trey gets to the lane there is no shot blocker in there—SDSU is 307th in that department.
Sic 'em, McGary. Like Michigan's defense, excellent defensive rebounding props up some unfavorable numbers elsewhere. Unlike Michigan's defense, SDSU has not gone through the Big Ten ringer and seen their numbers drop through the floor. They got clunked by Minnesota, which everyone does; they did well against New Mexico and Alabama. Not a lot of data to go on there—New Mexico's worst Factor is OREB—and McGary will have a size/roar advantage against a Summit foe.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
If UM doesn't settle and closes out on defense half decently, they win this game comfortably. They have several players in this match-up who can get to the rim and SDSU still has to respect the outside shot for Hardaway and Stauskas.
There's noone on that roster who can guard Burke one on one or in a high ball screen situation. I think Burke will either have 16 points by halftime or 8 assists. If he doesn't, the rest of the team didn't get off the bus.