Friday is University of Michigan night at the Pistons game. There's a postgame meet-and-greet with GRIII and five bucks from every ticket ordered through the above link will go to chronic fatigue syndrome research. The hat is no coincidence! It's Ace's hat! Not literally! But if you've listened to our very visual podcast you've no doubt seen his hat.
There are three seating options: corner, baseline, and the 200-level sideline. MGoBlog people are supposed to gather on the 200 level. Consume!
|WHAT||#7 Michigan (15-0) vs
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:30 PM Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan –13 (Kenpom)|
Michigan seeks to break the program record for most wins at the beginning of a season against Northwestern. Per Kenpom this is the second-easiest game left on the schedule—a home game against Minnesota is #1—and should be Michigan's fourth consecutive double-digit win in conference.
It doesn't always work out like that but given the results of the first game it seems difficult to believe the Wildcats would be able to scrape above a point per possession. They have not done that in a conference game so far, and they're coming off matchups against Illinois and Iowa. If Michigan crawls in a hole and dies on offense we'll get a replay of the last matchup; a more likely outcome is another comfortable non-blowout.
Isaiah Livers returned against Illinois and played 22 minutes so Michigan should be full go.
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||11||Anthony Gaines||So.||6'4, 200||61||14||102||Yes|
|D specialist doesn't start but gets starter minutes. Has pulled ORTG up ten points since last game. Mostly a giant FT rate so that probably won't translate.|
|G||14||Ryan Taylor||Sr.||6'6, 195||79||19||103||No|
|Evansville grad transfer. Just A Shooter who takes jumpers when he ventures inside the line. Forced into a ton of tough shots, scuffling.|
|F||21||AJ Turner||Jr.||6'7, 188||80||18||99||Meh|
|BC transfer. Slasher who gets to the line and converts but under 50% at rim. Meh from 3.|
|F||4||Vic Law||Sr.||6'7 200||82||26||110||No|
|Great shooter who can hit damn near anything but can't get to rim on his own. Heavy burden of tough late clock do-something shots.|
|C||5||Dererk Pardon||So.||7'3, 250||77||21||123||Yes|
|Extraneous R man still shooting 64% from floor. Did work against M last game. OREBS have come down some but still top 100. Not a huge block threat.|
|C||22||Pete Nance||Fr.||6'10 210||28||19||88||Maybe|
|6'10" beanpole has PG rebounding numbers and is Just A Shooter on offense. Probably should be redshirting.|
|C||25||Barret Benson||Jr.||6'10", 240||23||17||116||Yes|
|Just another backup C.|
|G||2||Ryan Greer||Fr.||6'2, 185||21||18||68||Yes|
|Composite #341 is closest thing to PG on roster. Miserable in all facets so far after reclassifying to 2018.|
|F||23||Miller Kopp||Fr.||6'7, 210||36||25||88||No|
|Composite #116 FR shooting 39/43, yikes. 24 TO rate. Also: high usage. Woof.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
This is Michigan's first return date of the year, so you're probably familiar with the Northwestern lineup. Michigan scratched out a 62-60 win in Evanston that featured a lot of absurd shots going down. Since then the Wildcats have beaten up on a couple of tomato cans, notched single-digit wins over Depaul (75-68) and Illinois (68-66) at home, lost to Oklahoma in OT at home, and gotten clobbered at Breslin.
The main developments with the Wildcats since that game have been an increasing reliance on Ryan Taylor and Vic Law taking tough contested jumpers like they did in the Michigan game as the defenses they face get better. Both Law and Taylor have seen their ORTGs dip significantly, largely because nobody on the roster can get to the basket and eventually the shot clock intervenes in your decision-making.
in case you missed the tiny cheerleader earlier [JD Scott]
The previous preview's section on the Northwestern lineup mostly holds up and doesn't need to be duplicated here. Tweaks I'd like to note:
- Before the last game it looked like Dererk "Red Squiggle" Pardon might have taken a big step forward as a senior. There's no maybe about it anymore after he went for 20 and 19 on good efficiency against M and MSU.
- Taylor and Law are both Just Shooters who get stuck with all the bad shots. Put 'em on last year's Villanova team and either could hit 45% from deep.
- I didn't mention that Miller Kopp starts games even if Gaines gets starters minutes.
The half-dozen or so games between the previous matchup have seen Northwestern's offense collapse on Torvik; the defense has remained in exactly the same spot(30th) but reconfigured itself fairly radically.
First, the defense. The Torvik snippet in the last preview showed a team that was top 50 in forcing turnovers and cleaning up their own boards but was just meh at preventing shots from going down. FT rate allowed was a problem. Now in mid-January it looks like Michigan's mini-me.
Contested twos above all. NW has gotten to the top ten in preventing launches, has toned down the fouling and turnovers. It all adds up to the exact same ranking, but this looks a lot more like the post-Maverick defense Donlon had in his single year in Ann Arbor.
The offense has backslid 60+ spots as NW has gone from a very good team at getting to the line and grabbing offensive rebounds to average-at-best in those categories. This too looks like a mini-Beilein outfit with a low TO rate and a ton of threes. Their assist rate has spiked from 37th to 6th nationally, and while assists are good there is a variety of team that has a huge assist rate largely because nobody can get their own shot. This is very much that team.
Harass Pardon. Michigan doubled off Gaines in the second half of the last matchup and should probably do that with some frequency from the drop here. Pardon managed just 13 and 12 percent usage in his last two games after he went 9/14 from the floor against MSU; it seems like that's the answer Illinois and Iowa came up with.
Gaines hit a couple threes against Illinois to pull his season percentage up. He's now 5/11 on the year. So you can probably still double off him.
Get to the rim. This is by far the least three-happy team of Beilein's tenure at Michigan, at least relative to the nation. They're below average(!) at 3PA/FGA, just 204th. They face a defense that goes to great lengths to prevent threes from getting up and may have a sustainably good 3P% defense since they've got so much length on the floor at all times.
NW wants to force two point jumpers, and, well…
Since starting 10/20 from the midrange against Holy Cross, 'Nova, and GW, Charles Matthews has shot 9/54 (16.7%) from that distance. He's 2/25(!) in the last four games. Matthews is fading unnecessarily and missing opportunities to take the ball strong to the rim. pic.twitter.com/8JY31E1TdS
— Eric Shap (@eric_shap) January 12, 2019
…Michigan has been Not Good at those. And it's not just Matthews.
So the goal is clear: get to the rim. Northwestern's D:
Settling for jumpers is playing into their hands. Never bunt hit dingers.
Death To Backboards. IE: just hope the many ridiculous shots NW is forced to put up don't fall at an unusual rate.
Keep them off the line. This is a slightly different number than Kenpom has but also hello:
Michigan making a strong bid for “lowest foul rate I’ve seen this decade” honors.
I see you too, Notre Dame. Play some more games. pic.twitter.com/d4agasFbl8
— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) January 11, 2019
Michigan's married the previous foul avoidance with much tougher D and the one unambiguously efficient bit of the Northwestern offense is their ability to get to the line fairly well and convert fairly well once there.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 13.