It will be 10:00 AM Arizona time at tip off.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Arizona|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan –1 (KenPom)|
Right: Is Arizona enormous and athletic? Well, this guy comes off the bench, if that answers the question.
Michigan welcomes 10-0, #1-ranked Arizona to Crisler tomorrow; the Wildcats ascended to the top spot after following an NIT Tipoff title (beating Duke in the championship game) with three wins in the last ten days. KenPom's metrics are slightly less bullish than the national polls, ranking them sixth; this is still pretty darn good, obviously.
Any look at the Wildcats should start up front, as this team takes full advantage of a huge lineup (15th nationally in effective height). 6'9" freshman Aaron Gordon, a consensus top-five overall recruit, is living up to the prodigious hype; while he's first and foremost a great rebounder (11.4/20.7 OR%/DR%), he's a very effective finisher around the rim who can also stretch the floor (6/16 3-pt). Thanks to a proclivity for taking two-point jumpers that he rarely hits (16.2%, per hoop-math), he's Arizona's least efficient rotation player despite an offensive rating over 105—again, this team is good. Gordon also has 13 blocks in ten games. Aside from the iffy jump shot, his only apparent weakness is free-throw shooting (44.7%).
Gordon is flanked by another former five-star, 6'8" forward Brandon Ashley, whose statistical profile is quite similar to Gordon's except with significantly better shooting numbers—Ashley's 2P/3P/FT splits are an impressive 62/58/73, though that three-point number is based on just 12 attempts. His rebounding rates are nearly as impressive as Gordon's, though he's not as much of an interior defensive presence. Oh, and then there's the seven-foot center, sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski, another excellent rebounder on both ends who finishes very well around the basket. While the offense doesn't run through Tarczewski much, he's the team's top interior defender, tallying 15 blocks already this season.
Now we get to the team's leading scorer, 6'3" shooting guard Nick Johnson, whose shooting splits are a very efficient 61/36/82 despite being the team's highest-usage player. There doesn't appear to be an easy way to defend him, as he's both a solid jump-shooter (40% 2-pt jumpers, 36% 3-pt) and a great finisher at the rim for a guard (77%, which includes going 17/19[!] in transition). Despite the front line of basketball Hoovers, he manages to tally nearly four rebounds per game in addition to his nine total blocks; even the guards play big.
The man to pull it all together offensively is 6'1" junior point guard T.J. McConnell, whose 36.8% assist rate ranks 21st nationally. McConnell takes the fewest percentage of shots out of anyone in Arizona's rotation; when he takes them, however, he does fairly well, hitting 55% of his twos and 35% of his threes this season. He's also a defensive pest with 18 steals this year, and like everyone on this dang team he pulls in defensive rebounds at a high rate for his position (12.4%).
Arizona mostly sticks to a seven-man rotation, so there are just two bench players of note. The man pictured terrorizing two poor souls from New Mexico State at the top of this post is 6'7" forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the other five-star freshman. He's a 55% shooter—mostly on attempts around the basket—and good offensive rebounder who's capable of doing this. 6'3" sophomore guard Gabe York shoots 40% from beyond the arc and otherwise doesn't add a lot—he's also a 40% shooter from inside the arc.
Arizona certainly earned their spot at the top of the polls, having posted four wins over KenPom top-100 teams: a road win over #40 San Diego State, NIT Tipoff triumphs over #57 Drexel and #19 Duke, and Wednesday's home blowout of #81 New Mexico State. The Drexel and Duke games both were relatively close affairs, with Drexel actually holding an early 27-8 lead in their game.
Four factors, with obvious sample size caveats applying (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||55.3 (27)||18.7 (186)||42.7 (8)||44.0 (117)|
|Defense||40.4 (4)||17.1 (250)||24.7 (12)||32.3 (45)|
Why yes, a team full of skilled giants does rebound exceptionally well, as it turns out. You probably gleaned this from the individual numbers: the Wildcats are one of the best teams in the country at not only crashing the offensive glass, but preventing opponents from doing the same. The defense in general is posting extremely good numbers: #5 nationally in defensive efficiency (91.4), #11 in two-point defense (40.3%), and #23 in three-point defense (27.2%).
The offense is good but not lethal, with most of their points being generated inside the arc. While Arizona is 26th in offensive efficiency, they've struggled in some of their tougher games:
Not counting laugher @ home vs Texas Tech, Arizona scored 0.99 points per trip vs. Drexel, Duke, UNLV; 26% on 3s, 48% 2s. Fret accordingly.
— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) December 8, 2013
If Michigan can keep Arizona out of transition and force them to settle for outside shots, they can hold their own. While this is easier said than done, Michigan has been very good at not turning the ball over and the Wildcat defense doesn't force many themselves.
BOOOOXXXXXX OUUUUUTTTTTTT. This really cannot be emphasized enough. It won't be enough for Mitch McGary to hold down the fort on the defensive glass while the rest of the team looks to break out; with so many good offensive rebounders on Arizona, everybody needs to account for their man or this will turn into a parade of putbacks.
Fall back. On the other end of the court, however, Michigan will be chasing a unicorn if they think the path to winning involves anyone besides McGary going all-out for second-chance opportunities. Arizona is just too big and athletic up front for the Wolverines to risk allowing them easy breakout opportunities, especially since the Wildcat offense can bog down in the halfcourt. If you're getting the sense that a Michigan win relies heavily on McGary having a huge performance ... yeah, that sounds about right.
Establish a secondary scorer early. Michigan's recent struggles have in large part stemmed from having no immediate answer when opponents expend most of their energy making sure Nik Stauskas doesn't beat them. I don't know about the how, I'm not even entirely sure about the who, but somebody—my guess: Caris LeVert—needs to establish themselves early as a legitimate scoring threat in the halfcourt.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1
KenPom has decreed it, and I have learned my lesson several times over. On paper this doesn't look like a great matchup for Michigan; however, if they can find a way to get out in transition—and Arizona isn't great at taking care of the ball—then they should be able to find a way to put up enough points against a stout defense to make this a very tight game; from there, I have more confidence in Michigan's shooters than Arizona's down the stretch.
Stauskas' ankle is "pretty close" to 100%, while McGary and Morgan are dealing with quad contusions that shouldn't limit them at all.
anything will help against a team this loaded!
based on flimsy thoughts:
Caris needs to step up in a big game, if this happens, Michigan wins
Mitch and Nik need to make Zona pay when they double either/both of them
Play 2 bigs to get more rebounds!!!!! Horford is viable, not great, but certainly serviceable
Michigan - 74
Zona - 72
I predict a big game for "Glenn Robinson The Third!"
Ace, I appreciate you predicting exactly as KenPom does, but I feel like qualifying the prediction is still flirting with the KenPom gods.
I do sincerely think Michigan wins this game. Go Blue!
As a resident of Tucson who lives a mere 8 miles from the University of Arizona ... all I have to say is Go Blue! :-)
Does anyone else think it's nuts that an unranked team can be favored over the #1 team in the country in Kenpom rankings? Not nuts like it's incorrect, but nuts that this actually seems semi-reasonable? Homecourt advantage is ROUGH in college bball.
Home court does factor into the computer simulation.
Yeah, I figured it was taken into account. And you're right that I was thinking just of Coaches / AP rankings not KenPom. But still, man. Can you imagine a top five football team ever being a dog to an unranked team, even on the road? Just surprised about either (a) how much of an effect homecourt has in bball or (b) how much more parity there is across college bball.
betting against ISU as a point favorite when they played #7 UM.
Glad this game is at home. It will be interesting to see if Michigan can find a way to get McGary more touches.
So there's that.
Tomorrow will be the 2013 awakening of GRIII.
We will kill them. Richrod doesn't believe in defense so we should score 120. And if we can stop his stupid gimmicky offense with some good hard hitting we should be fine.
This feels like a close-ish loss, but who knows. UM did play reasonably well against Duke despite being in an offensive funk; maybe they'll have better luck against Arizona. I do think that having played another big team in FSU will help; at least the idea of massive rebounders won't be foreign to them.