Hoops Preview: Northwestern

Submitted by Ace on January 29th, 2018 at 1:48 PM


WHAT #24 Michigan (17-6, 6-4) vs
#82 Northwestern (13-9, 4-5)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 7 pm ET, Monday
LINE Michigan -9 (KenPom)
Michigan -10 (Torvik)
Michigan -7.5 (Vegas)
PBP: Tim Brando
Analyst: Bill Raftery

Right: Great finds in mascot history videos.


The upcoming five-game stretch until Michigan gets their revenge opportunity against Ohio State all have a similar feel: Michigan should win, comfortably if they're at home. A five-game sweep isn't out of the question, and anything worse than 4-1 is going to be at least a little disappointing.

At this point, the rotation is mostly set with one obvious exception: backup point guard. Jaaron Simmons has seemingly passed Eli Brooks, who hasn't played in the last two games, but Simmons hasn't been particularly effective—he got yanked from the Purdue game after committing three turnovers in three minutes. If neither Simmons nor Brooks can be effective, look for John Beilein to go with more of the MAAR/Poole backcourt he's experimented with in recent games. This five-game stretch is probably Simmons' last chance to establish himself as a viable Big Ten player; hopefully M gets enough comfortable leads to give him a little more leeway to play though mistakes.


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 30 Bryant McIntosh Sr. 6'3, 200 78 25 101 Kinda
Yep, still there. Good distributor, takes a lot of difficult shots, makes some.
G 20 Scottie Lindsey Sr. 6'5, 210 76 24 101 Kinda
High-volume shooter only making 42% of twos, 23% of threes in B1G play.
F 4 Vic Law Jr. 6'7, 200 72 21 114 No
Solid 48/40/80 shooting splits, strong defender.
F 44 Gavin Skelly Sr. 6'8, 235 54 17 102 No
Decent shot-blocker. Low usage, solid outside shooter, turnover-prone.
C 5 Dererk Pardon Jr. 6'8, 235 74 19 119 Very
Strong finisher, rebounder, and shot-blocker. Iffy FT shooter.
G 11 Anthony Gaines Fr. 6'4, 205 39 15 95 Yes
Doesn't do much on offense, not shooting well.
G 23 Jordan Ash Jr. 6'3, 200 31 11 98 Not Really
Backup PG, decent shooter, TO rate twice as high as assist rate.
F 35 Aaron Falzon So. 6'8, 225 31 19 114 Not At All
Extreme Just A Shooter™, hits 46% of his threes.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


Northwestern has been one of the bigger disappointments of this season, following last year's tournament breakthrough with a 13-9 start. The only top-100 teams they've beaten are a reeling post-Reggie Lynch Minnesota squad (twice) and Penn State. They managed to give Purdue a scare at Mackey and hung relatively close at home against Ohio State; otherwise, they've had a tough time staying competitive against top competition.

What's been especially disappointing is this is largely the same team as last year. The only lost starter, Sanjay Lumpkin, was an extreme low-usage player. The Bryant McIntosh-Dererk Pardon pick-and-roll duo is still there. So are Vic Law and Scottie Lindsay. Senior stretch four Gavin Skelly was a natural fit to step into the starting lineup.

Yet this team has taken a significant step back, mostly on defense, where they've dropped from 32nd to 95th on KenPom. A team with this much experience is dangerous, but so far they've struggled to establish a reliable scoring option—McIntosh and Lindsay are both mired in bad shooting seasons—and their interior defense has collapsed in conference play despite the presence of Pardon, a very good shot-blocker.


Conference-only stats. Small sample size caveats apply.

Four Factors explanation

Northwestern hasn't been able to shoot from inside or outside the arc in conference play; they rely heavily on getting second-chance buckets to drag the offense even close to average. Michigan, even after playing MSU once and Purdue twice, is the best defensive rebounding team in the conference.

The Wildcats defense blocks a lot of shots, second-most in the conference, but that hasn't deterred opponents from attacking the basket and finding success; Big Ten teams are making 51.1% of their twos against NW. They also seem to be benefiting from some three-point luck; they've given up the ninth-highest rate of attempts but currently allow the second-lowest percentage.


Defend the glass. Northwestern is a questionable shot factory so long as they aren't pulling down offensive rebounds. The onus mostly falls on Moe Wagner, who's been unexpectedly great on the boards this year, to keep Dererk Pardon sealed off. If Michigan does this, the Wildcats are going to have a tough time keeping up.

More Poole/MAAR? I'm both totally in the bag for Jordan Poole and discouraged by the backup point guard play of late. John Beilein has experimented with a no-PG backcourt of Jordan Poole and MAAR, and while it hasn't really clicked yet, I like the potential on both ends of the floor. This could be a good game to unleash them against a backcourt that's had trouble producing.

Attack the interior. Michigan should be able to get their guards and wings going downhill against this defense, and while they get decent rim protection, they tend to break down when opponents slash to the hoop. This could be a big game for Zavier Simpson as a drive-and-dish threat.


Michigan by 9.

Keep Northwestern off the offensive boards and this should be a relatively comfortable victory.


UMHoops preview.


1989 UM GRAD

January 29th, 2018 at 2:11 PM ^

I'm no seeding expert, but we are ranked #24 and are #24 on Kenpom.  

We are all seeing the same bracketology predictions showing us in the 7/8/9/10 seed range.  

It seems to me that we really should be in the 6/7/8 range.

And, if we win the next five games (even against mediocre competition), I'd guess that we'd move up to 20ish both in the rankings and Kenpom...which seems more like a team that would be in the 5/6 range.


January 29th, 2018 at 2:41 PM ^

I don't know that it matters much how tall a team is.  Purdue started switching against us because their bigs were too slow hedging and then getting back to Wagner before he could fire up a three. We've not shown the ability to post him up and he's not shown the ability to recognize and pass out of help as he drives.

I would imagine all teams will switch the ball screens until we can make them pay for the mismatches.  Z driving on bigs has been the only mismatch exploitation that's been reasonably effective.


January 29th, 2018 at 2:10 PM ^

Can we please pound these guys by 40? 

They'll show the ending of last year's game tonight probably 3 times and then maybe reference it another 10 times.  I've taken great delight in every basketball loss Northwestern has had since.  Especially when Georgia Tech got a layup buzzer beater on them.  

Just because.... 



January 29th, 2018 at 5:51 PM ^

We are a really good defensive rebounding team and it's sustained all season such that it is not a fluke.  Wagner has massively upped his game in that respect, Livers and Teske have been good and the guards continue to go get the ball as is becoming a Beilein staple, rather than strictly getting upcourt for outlet passes.

Purdue is actually an entirely mediocre offensive rebounding team, so it's not surprising we did well against them.  Despite them having an orge, he isn't going to go get it (which is what o rebounding require), and none of their other guys go for Orebs.  So for them, it has to bounce to Haas (which is admittedly a big target) or they probably aren't getting it.

It was very impressive that we outrebounded MSU. That and our ability to turn it over fewer times than them won us the game as it allowed us to take a lot more shots than they took (despite hitting at a lower percentage).


January 29th, 2018 at 2:37 PM ^

isnt handling the ball in late game situations where we have to make Free Throws we will be fine..oh yeah and we need GOOD MO to show up EVERY game and since these are not the High quality teams Matthews should be good to...thats all


January 29th, 2018 at 6:22 PM ^

Didn't Billy Donlon wind up at Northwestern.  Am I being paranoid to suddenly remember how our defense last year kicked in right around this time to trend upward under his guidance? I will be very annoyed if Northwestern has a "break thru" defensive game tonight (or next week against us, for that matter).