Do Or Die

Submitted by Brian on March 6th, 2009 at 1:19 PM


Right: you may have the ball, Gopher, but Manny Harris is about to have your teeth.

The Essentials

WHAT Michigan @ Minnesota
WHERE Williams Arena, Minneapolis MN
WHEN Noon, March 7th 2009
THE LINE Ask Jamiemac
KENPOM Minnesota 66, M 61 (28% chance)

So: I usually leave the basketball previews to UMHoops and Varsity Blue but hell, this is a big game and they won't mind if I horn in some.

Sims is in tough. By this point we know a few things about DeShawn Sims, and one of them is that he gets swallowed up by actual big and tough shot-blocky types. Ideally he'd be playing with an actual center next to him who would occupy that player, but he's not so hypothetical center isn't.

Minnesota has a number of big and tough shot-blocky types, and though they're young they're ridiculously blocky: Minnesota is #1 nationwide in block percentage, sending back an astounding 19.2% of opponents' shots. That seems like a preposterous typo, but it's not. (The national average is 8.8%.)

So it's not a huge surprise that Sims was not a huge factor in the first game. He had twelve points, but was just 3 of 11 inside the arc. I don't think we're going to get much inside.

Threes should be open, though. Michigan won handily against the Gophers by chucking it from deep, going 13-28 on threes. Grady was 3 of 3, Novak 6 of 10, Sims 2 of 5, Douglass 2 of 6. Lee and Harris both took two and missed both.

This was not totally anomalous. Though Minnesota opponents only make a slightly above-average number of threes, the Gophers do yield almost 37% of their FGs from long range, 284th nationally. Given all the shotblocking inside, there is a huge gap between the average return of a three (1.04 points) and a two (.86). This matches up well with Michigan's shoot-first-cross-halfcourt-later style,

Defensively, we are going to have to force turnovers. Minnesota coughs up a ton of them and though they don't shoot particularly well, be it from two or three, they crash the boards like a mother—63rd in offensive rebounding—even against teams not featuring 6'5" 'power forward' and a point guard rotation of Doc, Dopey, and Grumpy.

Michigan doesn't force a ton of turnovers yet—they're still too small for that zone to be really bothersome—but they get their share. Minnesota is 311th in steals allowed; each one of those allows Michigan to run the floor and avoid the aforementioned blocky guys. In a game that figures to be tight, the difference  between two steal+layups and four is likely the difference between victory and defeat.

Uh… Kelvin Grady maybe? Grady's ability to push the ball upcourt lightning-quick could help here, right? I've seen so many threes launched over a helpless David Merritt that I can't think Grady's actually worse defensively.

Bizarre outlier! Minnesota, despite being huge and blocky and so forth and so on, is a below average defensive rebounding team. Ah, check that: I remember Brent Petway. These things are probably related. When four guys are skying to swat a ball anything that gets past their outstretched limbs is probably landing in the opponent's hands.

This disadvantage does not play particularly well into our hands, since we hardly ever crash the boards. It'll be interesting to see if Beilein changes his usual strategy here in search of an easy putback or two. Same with the Grady thing.

And, of course, the eternal question: How badly will Manny Harris's entire family be sodomized at courtside in front of everyone by every Gopher, roving bands of Minnesota students, Jim Delany, the ghost of Hubert H. Humphery, and the fabric of the land itself before one of the refs calling the game notices and calls a theatric technical on a Michigan assistant coach?

Eh, survey says probably pretty bad. Harris had an ugly game against Minnesota last time, going 2 of 8 and getting to the line just twice. Minnesota's slightly above average in FTA/FGA this year.

And I suppose I have to venture a prediction. I don't think we win. Relying on deep chucks on the road is a recipe for trouble, and that seems to go double for weird arenas like Williams, where the elevated floor puts weird juju into shooters or something. Michigan usually goes as Sims and Harris go—the last Minnesota game was a rare exception afforded by the scorching three-point shooting—and this doesn't look like a good situation for either.

But basketball is weird and all that. And there will be no liveblog. In fact, I'm going to go around town and find people with "cover it live" in their browser histories and give them wedgies, starting with me. So we can't lose.