Hoops Preview: Wisconsin, Part 1 Comment Count

Brian January 17th, 2017 at 4:58 PM


WHAT Michigan (12-6, 2-3 B1G) at
Wisconsin (14-3, 3-1)
WHERE Kohl Center
Madison, Wisconsin
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.


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.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
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
Bit player

[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.


Four Factors explanation

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.


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.


UMHoops preview.



January 17th, 2017 at 5:09 PM ^

To me the worst part of the demise of our winter sports is the increasing fan apathy. Look at the number of comments tonight in the open thread and I'll bet it doesn't hit 250 or basically the amount we get before kickoff for football. And hockey the other night didn't even have an open thread till midway into the 2nd period I think.

The board and fans in general are losing interest in both sports right now. Not very much fun to watch.

Cali's Goin' Blue

January 17th, 2017 at 5:19 PM ^

This is the saddest I've felt about UM basketball in awhile. I love Belein and the fact that he runs a clean program(which, to me, is his biggest detriment), but damn I am starting to get really frustrated with the on-court performance. I will turn on the Wisconsin game today, but don't expect to watch past the first half because I end up yelling "MAN UP YOU PUSSY" and "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS DEFENSE" way too much and I think my roommates are starting to think I'm crazy..... Only a few years ago I could watch these games in quiet content. :'(

Cali's Goin' Blue

January 17th, 2017 at 6:23 PM ^

And I don't think I implied they did. I was implying that Belein(and Wisconsin for that matter) will never recruit with the big boys as long as they run a clean program. That's just how it works in college basketball. I understand that you can have consistently good teams without recruiting at the highest level, as we've seen at Wisconsin. However, recruiting elite athletes and players seems to be Belein's biggest shortcoming, and that won't change as long as we run a clean program. I like the idea that we run a clean program and want that to continue, but I also have come to accept that we will not have a top 10 recruiting class often and that will make it harder to win championships. With that said, Villanova doesn't recruit at the highest level and is consistently one of the top teams in the nation. It is possible, just very difficult. 


January 17th, 2017 at 8:03 PM ^

and/or getting his players to play hard is Belilein's biggest shortcoming.  He has four 4 stars in the starting lineup.  There's a lot of length and good amount of athleticism there.  They're just clueless on defense.  I think there may be a transitional cost being incurred on defense this year as Donlon tries to implement his pack-line defense.  And Wagner still seems like he could use an English translator.

Gonzaga, UVA, Wisconsin, Creighton and Butler are all ranked in the top 15. St. Mary's is 18th.  None of them recruit better than us.  All of them coach defense a lot better than us.

Naked Bootlegger

January 17th, 2017 at 5:11 PM ^

I live in Madison, and I had no idea Michigan hoops was coming to town tonight.  That sums up my current basketball interest.  I'm typically a die hard fan that never misses a game on TV.  I've missed the last two.

I will watch the game.  I will cheer fervently for the good guys.   But the fact that this slipped my hoops radar is quite telling.   I'm normally all over the secondary ticket market when the boys come to town.  This year?  I guess I've been busy.

EDIT: I hadn't read MGrowOld's post before I submitted.   But my apathetic post is the perfect response to his words.

N. Campus Tech

January 17th, 2017 at 6:27 PM ^

It does. 

I could understand the way things went for Hoke in 2012 and 2013 (RR recruits and other things), but there should have been a huge leap forward in 2014. That didn't happen. It was the same shit the last 4 years, only worse, becuase there was no one else to blame. He had to go.

Same thing with hoops for 2014/15 and 2015/16. Injuries and NBA atrition. I can forgive that. Shit happens to any program.

There is no excuse for this. 

He brought in Billy Donlon. How can the defense worse than it was the last 2 years? They only have to be in the top 40 for defense to be a really good team, but they are not even close.

There is no "dog" (to quote Sam) on this team. If someone doesn't have an Novakian Aneurysm of Leadership soon, I'm going to be on the fire Beilein sideline. I can't put up with this much longer.


January 17th, 2017 at 5:26 PM ^

They have a total of 2 4stars and 8 3stars and a couple unranked prospects. Someone explain to me how they should be favored by 11 over Michigan? Someone justify why we shouldnt be able to compete and or beat this team tonight?


January 17th, 2017 at 5:30 PM ^

Michigan has 1 5star.....6 4stars and 3 3 stars plus Duncan and Dakich. We have exponentially more talent on paper. In fact it's not even close. How on earth are we supposed to relegate ourselves to expecting a beat down from a middling Wisconsin team that is not nationally competitive this year? If this is indeed the case... our program is far from what it should be and this needs to be addressed ASAP.


January 17th, 2017 at 5:39 PM ^

I've been calling for a coaching change for a couple years honestly. We've peaked under Beilien and he consistently loses to teams he should beat and doesn't beat good teams very often anymore. We are not a national threat and we should be. We don't recruit properly and we are geographically advantaged to do so.

Cali's Goin' Blue

January 17th, 2017 at 6:32 PM ^

Calling for a coaching change a couple years ago was absurd. I am starting to come along to the idea that we have peaked underBelein but that still may not be true. And saying that we are geographically advantaged to recruit is also a little lazy. MSU is in the same state, has a legendary coach who has the highest winning % in the tourney of any active coach, and has built in-roads to the basketball powerhouses in Detroit. I agree that we should definitely be considering letting Belein go after this, or next season, but give me a name of a realistic option for our coach who would be able to recruit against Izzo consistently. Context matters when it comes to recruiting


January 17th, 2017 at 8:44 PM ^

Head to recruiting battles against Izzo to put together a good team. Kay Felder, Edmond Sumner, and Jalen Reynolds are all in-state guys we could have gotten if Beilein had gone after them. All those guys produced/are producing for good teams and all three of them addressed needs we had/have. Beilein's reluctance to really recruit Michigan hard has been in large part his undoing. Character kids are great glue guys but a team full of them is how you end up with little leadership and no killer instinct.


January 17th, 2017 at 5:39 PM ^

Somehow we almost always play them competitively at the Kohl Center - before losing in agonizing fashion.

We'll always have 2014, though:


January 17th, 2017 at 5:43 PM ^

While they are definitely going to start playing better teams, if you go by Kenpom the real meat of their schedule is still a few weeks away.  Their next 6 games are:

@ Wisky, KP 9

Illinois, 65

IU, 26

@MSU, 44

OSU 57

MSU 44

The next six games according to Kenpom today will be the meat of the schedule:

@ IU, 26

Wisky, 9

@ Minny, 38

@ Rutgers, ???

Purdue, 18

@ Northwestern, 33



January 17th, 2017 at 6:05 PM ^

Not a lot of fire. Stunned we don't have more talent after the title run. Back then it seemed like we were on the way to great things but now we just seem to be destined to be a perpetual bubble team or worse.

One thing I always wonder is why they say Belein knows more about basketball than most anyone. I mean, I am sure that is true when you compare to the population on the planet, but does he really know more than the other top college coaches and if so, why can't he coach a defense?


January 17th, 2017 at 6:05 PM ^

Not a lot of fire. Stunned we don't have more talent after the title run. Back then it seemed like we were on the way to great things but now we just seem to be destined to be a perpetual bubble team or worse.

One thing I always wonder is why they say Belein knows more about basketball than most anyone. I mean, I am sure that is true when you compare to the population on the planet, but does he really know more than the other top college coaches and if so, why can't he coach a defense?


January 17th, 2017 at 6:40 PM ^

I guess I am in the minority. I grew up with the thrill of the Bill Buntin, Cazzie Russell- Oliver Darden teams, but I stuck with the far less successful teams that follwed featuring playetrs like the great Rudy T and the largely forgotten Dennis Stewart. Loved the excitement and the great competition during the Orr and Frieder years, was heartbroken over the fall from grace of Steve Fisher.

I found things to enjoy during the tournament draught of the Amaker years. I love Big Ten basketball generally and Michigan specifically. Every game this year I tune in to see if Mo Wagner will continue to improve. Offensively he is flashing the best offensive inside/outside game for a big man since ???

I guess what I am saying is that I don't ever take success of Michigan basketball for granted, but there are always compelling storylines. Our defense this year has been profoundly disappointing but I do not see a team that shows lack of effort- that is the one thing I can not tolerate. We lack a true leader on court, IMO Walton and Irvin are nice compelementary players but not top dogs or leaders and that is what we need.