Great preview as always Ace, thanks
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Northwestern|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -14 (KenPom)|
Right: Is "hitting hardwood bottom" a term? If so, it applies to Northwestern and Dave Sobolewski.
Northwestern's first season with former Duke assistant Chris Collins at the helm is off to a rough start; the Wildcats are 7-7 with no quality wins, two very bad losses, and they opened Big Ten play by getting pasted by 27 points at home against Wisconsin—the halftime score of that game was 40-14.
6'5" redshirt senior forward Drew Crawford, who missed most of last season with a torn labrum, is easily Northwestern's best player now that he's back at full strength. Despite his stature, he's the team's best rebounder on both ends of the floor, and the offense leans on him heavily—he takes nearly 30% of the team's shots when he's on the court. Almost 70% of those shots are jumpers, per hoop-math, and his shooting percentages reflect that: he's hitting just 44% of his twos while connecting on 39% of his threes, and he doesn't get to the line at a high rate—when he does, he shoots 81% there.
The next-highest usage Wildcat is 6'1" point guard Dave Sobolewski, whose junior year isn't going too well:
Dave Sobolewski's No. 1 basketball skill is exaggerating contact
— Sippin' on Purple (@sippinonpurple) December 28, 2013
It's worth noting that I have no idea what Dave Sobolewski's No. 2 basketball skill is.
— Sippin' on Purple (@sippinonpurple) December 28, 2013
On the plus side, he's got a very impressive free throw rate. On the negative side is, well, just about everything else: Sobolewski has hit 17-of-44 twos and just 11 of his team-high 59 three-point attempts, his assist and turnover rates are just about equal, and his offensive rating is a cringe-worthy 80.7—if Dave Sobolewski was a team, he'd rank seven points per 100 possessions behind last-place Grambling nationally.
Flanking Sobolewski in the backcourt is 6'4" junior JerShon Cobb, a solid outside shooter (37.5 3P%) who takes a ton of two-point jumpers (44% of his shots) that he makes at a paltry 25% clip; when he manages to get to the rim, he's a very efficient finisher, but that hasn't happened often this season. Cobb is a solid defensive rebounder for a guard—though, oddly, a complete non-factor on the offensive glass—and he distributes the ball pretty well.
Glenn Robinson III's status for tomorrow is officially questionable; if there's a game for him to miss, though, it's this one, as the 6'5" Crawford is Northwestern's nominal power forward, and the starting three—redshirt freshman Sanjay Lumpkin—is also listed at 6'5". Lumpkin provides decent rebounding and a solid 55.6 eFG%; he's also Northwestern's lowest-usage regular and, considering his lack of touches, a bit of a turnover machine.
The most intruiging matchup of this game will be Michigan's bigs against seven-foot center Alex Olah, whose season can be encapsulated in his last two games: after fouling out in just 12 minutes against DePaul while failing to record a point, he was the team's lone bright spot against the Badgers, scoring 25 points on 10/12 shooting with six rebounds (four offensive) and two blocks. Aside from the Wisconsin game, he's struggled against decent competition while having his best outings against the likes of Gardner Webb and Mississippi Valley State. He's most consistent as a rim protector, posting a block rate just outside the top 100 in the country.
The most notable reserve is 6'2" guard Tre Demps, who's third on the team in scoring, mostly on the strength of his 38% three-point shooting. He's much less effective inside the arc (42%) and doesn't add much to the box score otherwise. 6'7" forwards Nathan Taphorn and Kale Abrahamson also provide decent outside shooting off the bench; both take the lion's share of their shots from long range.
The Wildcats have only defeated two teams in KemPom's top 250, and those were home victories against middling teams: #149 Western Michigan and #192 Brown. They've been handled easily by the quality teams on their schedule—Stanford, Mizzou, UCLA, NC State, and Wisconsin—and have two ugly home losses on their resume to #150 Illinois State and #132 DePaul.
Four factors (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||47.5 (242)||17.2 (96)||25.8 (317)||40.6 (165)|
|Defense||45.7 (64)||16.1 (300)||28.2 (51)||41.9 (201)|
Pretty much the only good thing Northwestern does offensively is not turn the ball over; they're equally ineffective shooting from inside and outside the arc, don't hit the offensive glass, and don't get to the line frequently—they're also getting an astounding 14.5% of their two-point attempts blocked. Unsurprisingly, they rank 262nd in offensive efficiency on KemPom.
The defense is statistically pretty decent—61st in defensive efficiency—though that appears to be due to a litany of terrible non-conference opponents; Mizzou, UCLA, NC State, and Wisconsin each scored at least 1.15 points per possession against the 'Cats.
Get Olah away from the hoop. Olah is Northwestern's only real shot-blocker, not to mention the team's only viable big man—his backup, 6'9" senior Nikola Cerina, isn't nearly as good a rebounder or defender and he's currently posting a mind-blowingly bad 61.7 ORtg. With Michigan's size advantage on the perimeter, running lots of pick-and-rolls with Jon Horford or Jordan Morgan as the screener should get Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert good looks at the rim while also putting pressure on Olah to stay out of foul trouble.
Step up, Irvin. If GRIII can't give it a go tomorrow, the onus likely falls on Zak Irvin to match up with Drew Crawford defensively. While he's certainly got the size to defend Crawford, Irvin will need to focus more on the defensive glass than he has all season—not the easiest task since Crawford can step out and shoot from distance.
Run, run, run. Northwestern plays at one of the slowest tempos in the country, but they miss so many jump shots that there should be oppotunities for Michigan to push the pace even though the Wildcats prioritize transition defense over offensive rebounding. The results of turning up the heat are two-fold: Michigan can get some easy baskets on the fast break and a high-paced game could tire out a thin Northwestern front line. It all starts with Horford and Morgan; while their rebounding acumen isn't in question, neither has shown the same outlet passing ability as Mitch McGary, and getting the ball to the guards with alacrity will be key to getting upcourt in a hurry.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 14
On the status of Glenn Robinson III’s ankle injury: “I can’t give you much of an update. He had rehab all day yesterday. We’ll know more tomorrow, but we really don’t know right now.
On whether or not it’s a long-term injury: “We’ll know more. I’m not sure. We’ll have to just wait and see. We’d love to see him out on the court tomorrow. You and I and everyone else can find out tomorrow.”
“The young man, he eats right, he trains right, he’s in the gym all the time,” Beilein said. “I couldn’t be happier for any player ever that I’ve coached.”
Really hope GRIII isn't out long term and that 2014 isn't just zombie-2013.
My uneducated guess is that GRIII will be back soon at full strength but that the loss of McGary is going to preclude a repeat of 2013. But I'm prepared to judge this team on its own merits, not solely against last year's Final Four appearance.
The next 3 games should be easily winnable even without GRIII. Hopefully he'll be back by Wisconsin, which gives him nearly another two weeks to fully recover. If it really is just a turned ankle, that should be more than enough time. I hope.
Road games in conference play are never gimmes. Nebraska has looked pretty decent at times in both of their B1G games against Iowa and OSU, both on the road.
Yeah, Nebraska will be the toughest of the bunch, both because it's on the road and I suspect they'll end up being the best team of the three. Perhaps "easily winnable" is a stretch for that game. I still think we have a better than 50% chance to win that game without GRIII, but that's a pulled-out-of-my-ass guess.
If Beilin isn't blowing smoke, and GRIII actually has a chance to suit up today, then I'd bet he'll be back, at least at partial strength, by Nebraska and full strength by Wisconsin. If Beilin is channeling Hoke's injury reporting, though, who knows?
be back by later March? He is having the surgery tomorrow. Perhaps there will be an update about his recovery.
"Hitting hard wood bottom" lol
today even if he is cleared. I'd hate to see them lose this game but he is too important for the long run. He needs to get healthy.
Appreciate the write up.
No need to rush back early, should be a winnable game without him. Go Blue!