#24 Michigan (17-6, 6-4) vs
#82 Northwestern (13-9, 4-5)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Monday|
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.
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||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.
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.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 9.
Keep Northwestern off the offensive boards and this should be a relatively comfortable victory.