national champs baby
|WHAT||Michigan v. Utah|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
6:30 PM EST
December 10th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan -8*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
These two teams squared off last year in Salt Lake City, with the Utes emerging victorious in an ugly 68-52 contest. Both of these teams have changed a lot in the year (exactly!) since that game, however. If it were to be played again with only current players' scores counting, the final score would be 16-15 in favor of the Wolverines. Yay! WE WON!
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims were Michigan's only double-digit scorers in that game with 25 points and 10 points, respectively, and neither suits up in maize and blue anymore. Zack Gibson, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Anthony Wright all played at least 10 minutes in that contest, and aren't in Ann Arbor anymore. Even Eric Puls and Ben Cronin(!) got playing time in that game, and are no longer playing basketball. On the positive side of the ledger, Zack Novak had the flu and didn't travel. Darius Morris, Stu Douglass, Eso Akunne, and Matt Vogrich are the only players still on the team from that game.
The Utes have experienced similar turnover, though maybe not to such an alarming degree. Marshall Henderson (22) Carlon Brown (12), Luka Drca (12), and David Foster (10) were the leading scorers in that game, and only David Foster "my name distinctly lacks a Wallace" returns as a defensive specialist. Among other departures for Utah are Kim Tillie and Jordan Cyphers.
The players to watch for Utah are junior forward Will Clyburn, a Detroit native who's the team's leader in shooting and 3-point attempts, junior guard Josh Watkins and his older brother, senior forward Jay, and sophomore center Jason Washburn, a 7-footer who leads the team in blocks and is one of the top rebounders.
With a few games under each team's respective belts [Ed-M: ours is the one without the obnoxious buckle], it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Utah Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UU Def eFG%||145||68||U|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UU eFG%||23||228||MMM|
|Mich TO% v. UU Def TO%||114||191||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. UU TO%||247||118||UU|
|Mich OReb% v. UU DReb%||144||167||M|
|Mich DReb% v. UU OReb%||17||241||MMM|
|Mich FTR v. UU Opp FTR||316||268||U|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UU FTR||10||8||-|
|Mich AdjO v. UU AdjD||119||78||U|
|Mich AdjD v. UU AdjO||39||162||MM|
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.
The Wolverines, with their personnel turnover, are a very different team than we saw last year. They've displayed some competency shooting the ball(!!!!), and have gone from a very bad rebounding team to a solidly above-average one. In the meantime, the Utes have gone in the opposite direction in each of those metrics, and have also gotten much worse in opponents' shooting.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, though. The Utes are yet again one of the tallest teams in the country, with an average height just over 6-6. Teams with size gave Michigan a host of troubles last year, but now... well, the maize-and-blue has a bit of height of their own. Adding a 6-6 small forward, a pair of centers with legit size, and a couple power forwards that aren't (very) generously listed at 6-5 can work wonders.
The one thing the 2010-11 Utes truly do well is get to the free-throw line, which is unsurprising given their size. However, they've played a motley crew of tiny opponents (and an oddly well-sized but horrible Pepperdine team), and Michigan should have the best combination of size and skill they've seen.
The factors that have the greatest effect on their efficiencies are shooting on offense (which is a huge advantage for Michigan) and offensive turnover percentage (a big advantage for the Utes).
Utah hasn't played a team with both the size and skill of Michigan, which should give them trouble. However, Jordan Morgan struggled against Concordia (which, you may note, is an NAIA school that started a 6-5 center), so expect Utah to get some production on the interior, and frustrate Morgan at times.
However, I think Michigan's letdown game against the Cardinals will serve as a serious wakeup call that they can't sleepwalk through any game, so they'll have a renewed focus against the Utes. That means a snap back to form for Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz, with Darius Morris continuing his run of strong play.
Chances to look stupid:
Tim Hardaway Jr. or Jordan Morgan becomes the first Wolverine to foul out this season. Darius Morris records his third double-double of the year. Zack Novak puts together a solid game statisticaly to make up for missing last year's contest. Both teams trade some blows, but at the end of the day, I see a 70-58 game in favor of the Wolverines.