#43 Michigan (13-7, 3-4 B1G) vs
#30 Indiana (14-6, 4-3)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Thursday|
Michigan -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -4 (Vegas)
PBP: Rece Davis
Analyst: Jim Calhoun
Right: Obligatory. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
This week presents a huge opportunity for Michigan to get back on the right side of the bubble and improve their position for conference tournament seeding. Michigan is currently the second team out of the projected NCAA tournament field on the Bracket Matrix. Indiana and Michigan State (Sunday's opponent) are the two teams directly ahead of the Wolverines in the conference standings. Michigan needs a split, at the very least, if they don't want to put themselves in a very tight spot.
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||2||Josh Newkirk||Jr.||6'1, 195||62||19||102||No|
|Most PG-like player, but only has 1.6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.|
|G||4||Robert Johnson||Jr.||6'3, 195||65||22||120||Not At All|
|Sniper beyond the arc, solid finisher inside of it. 5th in B1G in eFG%.|
|G||1||James Blackmon||Jr.||6'4, 200||71||24||126||Not At All|
|High-volume, high-efficiency scorer. Defense can be an issue.|
|F||15||Zach McRoberts||So.||6'6, 200||26||7||133||Kinda|
|OG Anunoby's nearly invisible replacement. 6/17 FG in 211 minutes.|
|C||31||Thomas Bryant||So.||6'10, 255||67||21||118||No|
|Excellent rebounder and post scorer, good shot-blocker, now hits occasional three.|
|C||20||De'Ron Davis||Fr.||6'10, 240||32||25||119||Very|
|Solid backup C. 54% on FGs, effectively crashes offensive boards.|
|G||11||Devonte Green||Fr.||6'3, 186||28||18||101||No|
|Efficient scorer (57/39/75 shooting splits) but very turnover-prone.|
|G||0||Curtis Jones||Fr.||6'4, 175||31||19||112||No|
|Outside shooting threat, struggling to finish inside arc.|
|F||13||Juwan Morgan (inj.)||So.||6'7, 230||47||16||136||Yes|
|Great rebounder and finisher this year. Status unclear due to ankle injury.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
While Indiana has won their last three Big Ten games following a 1-3 start, that recent stretch hasn't exactly been kind to them anyway. Forward Juwan Morgan, who's shooting 72%(!!!) on two-pointers this year, has missed the last two games with a foot injury; his status for tonight is unclear. Do-everything forward OG Anunoby injured his right knee against Penn State and will miss the remainder of the season. With forward Collin Hartman also expected to miss the year with a knee injury he sustained in the preseason, Indiana is hurting for depth up front, especially if Morgan can't go tonight.
The Hoosiers still have plenty of firepower, however. James Blackmon Jr. is averaging 19 points per game in Big Ten play; he's a lethal shooter who's made significant strides in his ability to finish at the rim, and his offensive output more than makes up for his less-than-stellar defense. Blackmon is joined in the backcourt by a similarly productive scorer in Robert Johnson, who's posting 58/43/77 shooting splits while taking slightly more threes than twos.
The weak spot in the backcourt is at point guard, where Josh Newkirk is struggling both his shot and turnovers. IU is still looking for answers there in a post-Yogi world: freshman backup Devonte Green has posted better shooting numbers than Newkirk but is similarly turnover-prone; fellow freshman backup Curtis Jones is a good outside shooter who coughs it up less, but he doesn't dish out many assists and he's had a tough time scoring inside the arc.
While sophomore center Thomas Bryant has been up-and-down as a scorer of late, he's still quite dangerous in the post, and he does all the big man stuff quite well. He's even flashed the ability to knock down threes this year, though he's only 2-for-11 in B1G games. Freshman De'Ron Davis has proven to be a very capable backup, making 54% of his field goals (all twos), getting to the line often, blocking shots, and crashing the offensive boards with aplomb.
If Morgan can't go, the four spot will be manned by Zach McRoberts, whose offensive impact is almost entirely limited to grabbing rebounds. In his 57 minutes over the last three games, coinciding with his significant uptick in minutes with Morgan and Anunoby out, he's pulled down five offensive rebounds and attempted only five shots.
Even before the injuries, this was a tough squad to figure out. Indiana has wins over #9 Kansas and #8 UNC this season; they also have losses to #124 Fort Wayne and #90 Nebraska (at home). They managed to hold serve at home against Michigan State last Saturday with Anunoby and Morgan out; Blackmon poured in 33 points on only 16 FGA, while Johnson and Bryant added 17 and 11, respectively.
Conference-only stats. Small sample size caveats apply.
Indiana has surpassed Michigan as the Big Ten's most efficient offense despite their turnover issues, which they compensate for with lights-out shooting—they're making 54% of their twos and 40% of their threes in conference play—and great offensive rebounding. Even with Onunoby and Morgan out, six different Hoosiers grabbed offensive boards against MSU, led by McRoberts with three.
The Hoosier defense ranks 11th in the conference, though we'll see if Michigan can take advantage of their primary weaknesses: rebounding and fouling. One weakness the Wolverines are built to exploit: IU's B1G opponents are making 42% of their three-pointers.
Attack the four. DJ Wilson is coming off arguably his best game at Michigan and should get a choice matchup; he'll either be going against McRoberts, who's only 6'6", 200, or the version of Juwan Morgan who's fresh off an ankle injury. If McRoberts is the guy, Wilson should be able to provide a lot of help on defense as long as he stays disciplined on the glass, and against either player he should maintain his aggressiveness on offense.
Trust the post defense. I realize that statement is rather terrifying, but Michigan must be able to contain Thomas Bryant without sending in help from the perimeter or James Blackmon and Robert Johnson are going to make it rain. The last two games have been encouraging on that front; Wagner and Wilson did a solid job on Wisconsin's Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. If Wagner gets into foul trouble like he did against the Badgers, though, M is in big trouble; at this point, I'd prefer to see John Beilein put Wilson on Bryant and bring in an extra wing in such a situation if Jon Teske isn't ready to play over Mark Donnal.
Attack off turnovers. Indiana doesn't do a good job of taking care of the ball, which could provide the edge Michigan needs in this game. According to hoop-math, IU opponents have a 63.5 eFG% on shots coming in transition off a steal, while they allow a 43.5 eFG% on non-transition attempts. Bryant and Davis are imposing rim-protectors; beating them down the floor is a good way to get around that.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1.
DJ Wilson should be the difference in this game. He'll either have a significant size and skill advantage or be going against a player trying to bounce back from an ankle injury. Beilein mentioned after Illinois that he wants more of the offense to run through Wilson; we should see that tonight.
Has Irvin taken bad shots? No doubt. Are there times he should have deferred? Absolutely.
But there's a mischaracterization of why this dynamic exists.
As the conversation in the atrium moved on, Beilein was told, "He looks like the only guy willing to take certain shots on this team."
"Yeah, that's right, that's right," Beilein responded.
"So that's a real thing?"
Beilein, the ultimate diplomat: "That's a real -- well, I wouldn't say that, but he ... let's say, he's not the only one willing, but he's the most-likely-to-be-willing."
A stat (via hoop-math) that supports Quinn's premise: Irvin takes 26% of Michigan's field goal attempts in the last five seconds of the shot clock, and that figure includes attempts when Irvin isn't on the floor.