Michigan (2-0) vs
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
9:30 pm ET, Thursday
Marquette -1 (KenPom)
PBP: Karl Ravech
Analyst: Fran Fraschilla
Right: Derrick Walton expects to be at full strength after rolling his ankle in Friday's win over Howard. [Photo: Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After winning both 2K Classic "regional" games last weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan gets a major step up in competition for this week's championship round at Madison Square Garden.
Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30, but the other semifinal (Pitt/SMU) tips off at 7 in MSG, so there's a good chance this ends up starting later than the listing. Set your DVRs and sleep schedules accordingly.
Derrick Walton didn't look quite right for the second half of Friday's game and all of Sunday's after tweaking an ankle late in the first half against Howard. It apparently bothered him even though he played 35 and 36 minutes in those two games:
“I was coming down on the break and I tried to stop and go into a step-back,” Walton said on Sunday when discussing the Friday night injury. “I kinda jammed it and slightly rolled it. It’s real stiff. I did a couple things after the last game and up until this game. It’s still a little stiff, but my guys carried me (today).”
He expects to be fine by tomorrow:
And though Walton admits he isn’t 100 percent right now, he also said he doesn’t think it’ll take more than a couple of days to get back to full strength, which means he should be good to go against Marquette next Thursday.
Walton playing so many minutes in games Michigan (eventually) won comfortably says something about the trust John Beilein currently has in his freshman guards; at that same link, Beilein acknowledged that the game is still moving too fast for Xavier Simpson and Ibi Watson, which is why they've only played limited minutes so far.
Michigan ranked 31st on KenPom so start the season and Marquette 47th, but the Golden Eagles have surpassed the Wolverines following two blowout wins to open the season, including one against a common opponent. Marquette beat Howard by 32 on Monday; Michigan's margin was "only" 18. That followed an impressive season-opening 95-71 win over #68 Vanderbilt.
Marquette has five players averaging double-digit points through two games, led by senior wing JaJuan Johnson, who's at 17.5 points per game this season after emerging as a top scoring option over the second half of 2015-16. Johnson is an efficient scorer both inside and outside the arc; it's yet to be seen if he's rid himself of his turnover issues of the previous two seasons.
6'5" guard Haanif Cheatham, another effective inside-outside scorer with past turnover problems, has been their best all-around offensive player. He's averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Cheatham has a nine-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio this season; last year it was 73-to-88. Sophomore point guard Traci Carter is the more trustworthy distributor, but he only shot 37% from two and 31% from three last year. While Carter's backup, freshman Markus Howard, looks to be a better shooter given the limited information available—he's 3-for-4 on threes—he's showing his inexperience; he's committed five fouls and four turnovers in 27 minutes.
Starting four Katin Reinhardt is a 6'6", 210-pound college basketball nomad; the former four-star prospect started his career at UNLV, where he started 34 games as a freshman, then transferred to USC and started 40 games over two seasons there before moving on to Marquette as a grad transfer. He's another sharpshooter from the outside—he's attempted nearly as many threes as twos in his career—but he doesn't have much impact on the boards. His backup, 6'7" freshman Sam Hauser, has been much more productive on the boards, and he's also 7-of-11 threes this season; he's only attempted one two-pointer.
The Golden Eagles have a legit post presence in 6'11", 250-pound former Indiana transfer Luke Fischer, who's shot 61% from the field in each of his last two seasons at Marquette. He's an excellent shot-blocker and offensive rebounder; oddly, he has Nnanna Egwu-like (or last year's Michigan centers-like) low rebounding percentages on the defensive end.
This will be a great test of Michigan's defense. If they're playing sound, aggressive defense on the perimeter, they can turn the tide of the game by converting turnovers into transition opportunties. If they're screwing up rotations and allowing blow-bys by guards, it could be a long night. We've seen both sides of that in the first two games. DJ Wilson continuing his thus-far breakout season would be huge; he can be a mismatch against Marquette's smaller fours as long as he can stay in front of them on defense.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Marquette by 1.
[Hit THE JUMP for previews of Pitt and SMU, Michigan's potential Friday opponents.]