|WHAT||Michigan vs Ohio|
7:20 PM Eastern
Friday, March 16
|LINE||M –5 (Kenpom)|
"Who are you guys playing in the NCAA tournament?"
"No, I mean Ohio Ohio. You know, the Bobcats, from the MAC."
"OH LOL SO FUNNY BECAUSE BRADY HOKE OHIO BLAH BLAH BLAH."
I'm not saying Michigan dodged a bullet or anything when they slid down to a four-seed, but they dodged a bullet when they slid down to a four-seed. The three seed in the Midwest region, Georgetown, drew KenPom's #23-ranked team, trendy upset pick Belmont. By falling one seed line, Michigan will play their first-round game against #72 Ohio, easing fears of a first-round* upset while simultaneously filling my Twitter timeline with approximately 4,327 terrible Brady Hoke jokes.
Sure, man. Do your thing.
The Bobcats have a pretty balanced offense; eight players average at least 30% of available minutes and six break the 20% usage mark. The go-to guy is 5'11" junior point guard D.J. Cooper, who has the 17th-best assist rate in the country, an average turnover rate (not bad considering his high usage), and some ugly shooting numbers: 39% on twos and 31% on threes. Cooper does get to the line fairly often and hits at 74% from the stripe; the obvious key here is to keep him on the outside shooting jumpers. He appears willing to pull from just about anywhere, and that's perfectly fine if you're Michigan.
6'8", 263-pound center Reggie Keely comes off the bench, but he plays a little over half the team's minutes and is a high-usage guy when he's out there. Keely does most of his work on the offensive boards, where he reels in 12.1% of misses, and he gets to the line with regularity, drawing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes. Keely isn't an outstanding shooter, connecting on 53% of his twos and 67% of his free throws, and he turns it over with regularity, but Jordan Morgan will have to make sure to keep him off the offensive glass while staying out of foul trouble.
Continuing the trend of guys who get to the line often is 6'3" wing Walter Offutt, who also draws 4.8 fouls/40 minutes but isn't very remarkable in any other statistical category. Offutt hits 35% of his three-pointers while shooting 49% from inside the arc, making him one of the more efficient scorers on the team.
The other two main contributors are a high-usage guy with a terrible ORtg—6'8" forward Ivo Baltic, a strong defensive rebounder who can't shoot free throws and hits under 50% of his twos—and a low-usage guy with a great ORtg in guard Nick Kellogg, a 42% three-point shooter whose statistical profile suggests he's a (very effective) spot-up shooter and not much else. I'm guessing Kellogg draws Hardaway when Michigan is on defense, assuming that Burke and Douglass take the two guards who dominate the ball more, and THJ had better do a good job of closing out.
The rest of the rotation is, well, there. 6'7" forward Jon Smith barely touches the ball while starting and playing nearly half the team's minutes, but he is a plus offensive rebounder and boasts an impressive 8.2 block percentage. Tiny freshman backup point guard Stevie Taylor is nearly as bad a shooter as Cooper and doesn't have the gaudy assist numbers to salvage his efficiency. 6'6" sophomore T.J. Hall actually is a worse shooter than Cooper. I can't find anything worth noting about Ohio's other two bench players save the fact that one is named TyQuane Goard.
*I refuse to use the NCAA nomenclature in which the Thursday/Friday games are "second round" games and Saturday/Sunday marks the "third round." This is stupid. Play-in games are play-in games. GET OFF MY LAWN.
Ohio's resume is severely lacking in the signature win department despite the Bobcats finishing 27-7: according to KenPom, their best victory is a two-point road win against #74 Marshall back in November. Their only other wins over top-100 KenPom teams came in the form of a 17-point road win over #95 Northern Iowa and two defeats of #79 Akron (one a home blowout and the other a one-point squeaker in the MAC title game; the Bobcats also lost by five to the Zips on the road). They do have a victory against the one common opponent shared with Michigan, a two-point win at Oakland, whom the Wolverines beat by ten at the Palace.
The Bobcats lost their only game against a powerhouse program, though falling short by five at #20 Louisville is actually rather impressive. Other losses are the aforementioned Akron road game, a three-point home loss to #141 Robert Morris, and road losses to #123 Bowling Green, #200 Toledo, #279 Eastern Michigan, and #122 Kent State.
|Factor||Offense (Rk)||Defense (Rk)||Avg|
|Effective FG%:||49.0 171||47.2 94||49|
|Turnover %:||19.7 141||26.7 2||20.3|
|Off. Reb. %:||35.2 64||33.9 246||32.1|
|FTA/FGA:||36.6 168||43.5 301||36.4|
The Bobcat offense relies largely on their solid offensive rebounding to make up for the fact that only one player can really shoot. Just over 38% of the team's shots come from beyond the arc, a distribution which shouldn't cause problems as long as Cooper and Offutt are the ones shooting and not Kellogg.
Defensively, Ohio plays a high-pressure man-to-man look, going all-out for turnovers. While they've amassed the fourth-best steal rate and second overall turnover % in the country, the Bobcats foul a lot in order to do so—opposing teams produce just under a quarter of their points against Ohio from the free-throw line. They do defend the three rather well, sitting at 19th in the country in opponent 3P% (30.3).
Make sure Trey Burke doesn't play 45 minutes the night before the game. Check.
Make sure Trey Burke can play 45 minutes if necessary. This is not a concern about his gas tank as much as it is D.J. Cooper. Namely, D.J. Cooper's ability to draw an absurd 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes. Burke will guard Cooper, and it's obviously obvious that Michigan needs Burke to not foul that much. He's done a great job this season of avoiding foul issues, and if things get hairy Beilein should be able to switch Douglass onto Cooper without creating a major matchup problem elsewhere, but I'd rather not spend large portions of the game tearing my hair out because Beilein refuses to leave anyone in the game who can remotely be described as being in foul trouble.
Okay, now work the pick-and-roll. An aggressive man defense like Ohio's means Michigan isn't going to create open jumpers simply by working the ball around the perimeter, so successfully taking advantage of defensive pressure via the screen is imperative. We'll see if the Bobcats comes out and hedge hard—I'd guess yes—and if they do, Jordan Morgan could be the key to this game. Ohio only has one decent shot-blocking presence and he's 6'7", 190 pounds; let Morgan slip the pick and see if anyone can stop him on the roll.
Good Hardaway. Please show up. Ohio's main perimeter players all check in at 6'3" or shorter, meaning Timmy should be able to shoot/jump right over these guys. The problem will be the temptation to shoot over them while standing still 25 feet away from the basket. With Ohio's propensity for steals and Hardaway's tendency to cough the ball up in traffic, it would be best if Michigan tried to work him off the ball and free him up that way instead of letting him try to create on his own.
Let Ohio's chuckers chuck. As long as it isn't coming from right next to the basket, any D.J. Cooper shot seems like a good one for Michigan. Offutt isn't a whole lot more efficient while the backup guards are simply not good at putting the ball through the basket. Meanwhile, Kellogg is rather deadly from beyond the arc and the Bobcats crash the boards well. The Wolverines would be best served denying Kellogg the ball while sagging off the other shooters, encouraging Ohio to settle for shooting from deep—Cooper seems to have no issue with that—and making sure they don't get killed on the glass.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by five.