|WHAT||Michigan (12-6, 2-3 B1G) at
Wisconsin (14-3, 3-1)
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Tuesday|
|LINE||Wisconsin -10 (KenPom)
Wisconsin -11 (Vegas)
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: cheese. Cheese never changes.
Michigan exits the easy bit of their schedule at 2-3 in the Big Ten and now stares down a gauntlet-like substance. Since this is the worst Big Ten in a while—just two teams in the Kenpom top 25—that gauntlet isn't the death sentence it might have been a few years ago. It's still not good, and Michigan kicks it off with the Big Ten's one elite tempo-free team: eternal, unchangeable Wisconsin.
Good news: Michigan's the best offense in the league and by a bit of distance. Bad news: Michigan is the worst defense in the league by a thousand miles. They are currently on pace to be the worst Big Ten defense in the Kenpom era, which stretches back to 2002.
But you knew that already. You can see with your eyes.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||3||Zak Showalter||Sr.||6'3, 185||67||14||130||No|
|Barely shoots, low assist rate, good defender|
|G||24||Bronson Koenig||Sr.||6'3, 190||72||21||122||Not At All|
|Primary sniper, 40% on 119 3s. Efficient inside arc as well.|
|F||30||Vitto Brown||Sr.||6'8, 235||53||19||107||No|
|Low usage, high efficiency stretch 4. TO prone.|
|F||10||Nigel Hayes||Sr.||6'8, 240||74||25||115||Not Really|
|Lead dog shoots a ton of midrange jumpers w/ decent efficiency. Good passer. Gets to the line a lot, converts at only 63%|
|C||20||Ethan Happ||So.||6'10, 232||63||26||120||Very|
|Efficient, high-usage post scorer, passes well, dismal FT%|
|G||0||D'Mitrik Trice||Fr.||6'0, 178||45||16||123||Not At All|
|Clone of his brother Travis. Ululating woman on FTs will be his mom.|
|G||21||Khalil Iverson||So.||6'5, 212||40||18||111||Very|
|Petway-esque jumping-jack swingman will get his on putbacks mostly|
|F||25||Alex Illakainen||So.||6'9, 232||25||11||104||Not Really|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Well, crap. Bo Ryan's final dastardly trick was replacing himself with himself. Under Greg Gard the Badgers have changed not one iota. They have Michigan's offense, more or less, and pair it with Michigan's defense, if Michigan's defense was really good at contesting shots and rebounding. So... not Michigan's defense. Neither team fouls much, though.
Most alarmingly for Michigan, they enter this game 19th in the country in two point percentage offense and 26th in two point percentage D. Michigan does one of those things.
This year's version of the Badgers is very large, starting a legit center in Ethan Happ along with two stretch four types. Nigel Hayes has been the face of the program for a year and a half; recruitniks may remember Vitto Brown from "Mark Donnal scores 35 points on Vitto Brown in high school" and weep silently into their beers. Both guards are sizeable gentlemen as well.
As per usual, everyone can shoot (save Happ and a couple of bench players), turnovers are extremely rare, and the swing offense results in a bunch of assists from the bigs. Hayes has been reasonably contained by Michigan in the past and will probably end up taking a bunch of mediocre shots he'll make a higher percentage of than the average guy. Happ is a big problem, a high-usage, high-efficiency center who could have 16 points on 8/9 shooting by halftime if previous trends continue.
Those two posts drive most of Wisconsin's play. Guard Zak Showalter is content to take easy rim opportunities that come his way and shoot the occasional three; he has the same level of usage as Xavier Simpson does. Bronson Koenig is an accurate sniper and the main three-point threat. Both provide the occasional assist.
Wisconsin is 14-3, with away losses to #14 Creighton and #18 Purdue plus a neutral-court loss to UNC. They beat a bunch of middling majors in the nonconference (Tennessee, Georgetown, Syracuse, Oklahoma), with #36 Marquette their best win. They did take down Indiana at Assembly Hall a couple weeks ago.
Michigan isn't going to get many OREBs in this one; the O-D matchup will come down to Michigan's ability to generate quality shots, and make them, against a defense that is pretty good at making you shoot over them as they bump you with the body.
The other side of the ball projects to be a massacre. Michigan's best bet is an anomalously bad shooting night from Wisconsin, which they are due.
Don't get absurdly rained on from three. This is less a key than a plea to the basketball gods, which have decreed that Michigan shall cede 55% from beyond the arc in conference play. Bad defense? Maybe, but nobody plays defense that badly. Michigan cannot compete in this game if Wisconsin is 7/8 from 3.
For the love of God, foul them on the inside. Happ is a 50% FT shooter. Hayes is at 63%. Happ is deadly efficient on two-pointers, and Michigan suuuuuucks at post defense. Play Teske, and get super aggressive on anyone trying to post up. (Side note: fouling anyone else is not advised.)
Eat some damn Wheaties or something. This may allow you to stay in front of a driver for a moment or two.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Wisconsin by 10.
The Badgers are certainly good enough to slow down the Michigan offense, and that should be all it takes to ease into a significant lead.