Hoops Preview: Northwestern, Part 2 Comment Count

Brian February 6th, 2018 at 12:12 PM


WHAT #24 Michigan (19-6) vs
#76 Northwestern (14-10)
WHERE Rosemont Horizon
Rosemont, IL     
LINE Michigan –1 (KenPom)
Michigan –1.5 (Vegas)



Here is the power of home and away in college basketball: Michigan entered their most recent game against #91 Minnesota with an 80%+ win probability in Kenpom, which translated to a projected 11 point edge. (It did not quite work out that way.) Playing virtually the same quality team on the road, Michigan is favored by one. Also: at Crisler Michigan trailed this Northwestern team 14-5 halfway through the first half and Kenpom still had Michigan a 53% favorite.

Because of this huge swing in game outcomes based on little more that referee whims, Michigan's finishing stretch is coin flip central. Michigan has a win probability between 43 and 60% in five of their six remaining games, with a home game against Iowa (84%) the lone exception.

This Northwestern game is a 55% shot per Kenpom, though there are there are a couple complicating factors. Northwestern's temporary tenancy in Rosemont, Illinois, has resulted in a home court advantage in the bottom third of DI, far worse than Crisler's middling results. On the other hand, Michigan is arriving in Chicago today since their flight was snowed out last night. Hopefully they bring their practice jerseys.


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 98 Kinda
NW main and only shot creator enjoying his 8th season of Big Ten play. 41/30 splits, gets stuck with bad late clock stuff.
G 20 Scottie Lindsey Sr. 6'5, 210 76 24 101 Kinda
Other main "oh god someone shoot" guy. 45/31 on ton of volume. Does not get to line.
F 4 Vic Law Jr. 6'7, 200 72 21 112 No
39% from three; does go inside somewhat frequently. DREB vacuum.
F 44 Gavin Skelly Sr. 6'8, 235 54 17 103 No
Stretch-ish 4 will offer help rim protection and hit about 1 three a game; lot of TOs in his usage.
C 5 Dererk Pardon Jr. 6'8, 235 74 19 119 Very
Burly rim specialist will block shots, OREB, and finish.
G 11 Anthony Gaines Fr. 6'4, 205 39 15 95 Yes
Low usage FR gets to the line semi-frequently and has no other statistical strengths.
G 23 Jordan Ash Jr. 6'3, 200 31 11 98 Not Really
Invisible reserve G getting 15 minutes a game and occasionally flirting with trillions.
F 35 Aaron Falzon So. 6'8, 225 31 19 114 Not At All
Just A Shooter hitting 40%.

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



man concerned by duncan robinson's defense, oil on canvas, 1652 [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Northwestern remains the same struggling outfit Michigan just spotted that 14-5 lead and outscored by 20 the rest of the way, almost by accident. Their dropoff from last year's tourney team is fairly inexplicable since the only departure was Sanjay Lumpkin... but Northwestern was also an 10-8 Big Ten team a year ago that ended up ranked #38 on Kenpom; their decline has been noticeable but not dramatic.

Northwestern's main issue is that they have one shot creator (senior PG Robbie Hummel Bryant McIntosh), one volume three point shooter who's at all efficient (junior wing Vic Law), and one guy who's good inside the arc (junior C Derek Pardon). This is an offense that struggles to unbalance opposing defenses, resulting in an eFG of 47 in Big Ten play, which is 12th. They're worst in the league at allowing steals; they're worst in the league at getting to the line.

There's a lot of standing around and hoping, and when things get late they get grim. Like Michigan, Northwestern's offensive efficiency goes off a cliff once they get deep, with an EFG of 50% in normal clock situations dropping to 43%. Attempting to offset that with transition doesn't work too well; like Minnesota, Northwestern is barely more efficient in transition (52%) than they are in the half court. There are no Anthony Cowans out there for the Wildcats—McIntosh is the only unassisted three shooter on the roster and he's barely 30% from deep this season.

Northwestern also has no bench. Aaron Falzon hits threes at a good clip; everyone else is an inefficient, low usage player.

Lumpkin was apparently Northwestern's glue on defense, because halfway through this season the Wildcats were flailing and gave up on man to man in favor of that new-fangled variant on the 2-3 zone where the wings are super aggressive towards the wing 3 area. (Michigan ran something very similar during the last ten minutes of the Minnesota game.) If this was the Super Bowl I'd be calling it the RPO zone. Someone name this thing please.

Whatever it was, it caused Michigan to stand around looking at each other for the first ten minutes of the prior Northwestern game; things got a little better before halftime and then Michigan seemed to figure it out after the half. They've been practicing it—and therefore against it—given the Minnesota results, so hopefully this time around Michigan will be more active from the start.


Repurposed from the earlier preview:



Stay in front of McIntosh. I'm a bit leery of using the stats to say things because Minnesota made a very convincing case that the jinx is alive and well in Michigan's most recent outing. A miserable, miserable 2-point jumper team saw Isaiah Washington and Nate Mason, collectively < 30% on the season, hit 16 of their 27 two point jumpers.

But it's either do this bit or stare into the void thinking of Arby's, so: Bryant McIntosh is the only Wildcat capable of creating more than a few good shots for his team. NW has no unassisted three point shooters outside of McIntosh. They have no one with an appreciable assist rate; they don't have efficient post-up guys. McIntosh is a solid two point shooter at 41%, but if Michigan loses to McIntosh floaters so be it.

Rebound. The one thing Northwestern is good at on offense is hitting the offensive glass; they're third in conference. Derek Pardon's most efficient offense is the putback. If Michigan continues to limit opponents like they have all season the turnover battle should be decisively in their favor, and then it's a matter of a team that can't really shoot outshooting Michigan.

Don't stand around for 25 seconds staring at the zone. Michigan annually seems baffled by zone defenses, and this team is especially susceptible without a perimeter alpha dog. You'd think things would be better since they just saw this team, but Michigan has gotten off to so many slow starts this season that it might not matter.


Michigan by 1.



February 6th, 2018 at 12:23 PM ^

I complimented Ace on spelling "Dererk" correrktly after the last game. Alas, Ace was only 1 for 3 spelling Dererk correrktly this time.


February 6th, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

Think this is a case of actual mistaken identity.

EDIT: Or maybe you know that and this does apply.  Or maybe you don't know that I don't know that you know that he knows that oh god I fell into a black hole.


February 6th, 2018 at 12:29 PM ^

This might not mean much, but looking at Kenpom for Michigan this year, their most efficient games (ignoring tomato can games against your UC Riversides of the world) are almost all on the road:  @Purdue, @MSU, @iowa, vs. LSU in a neutral cort.  For whatever reason, they have played pretty well away from home the past month or so (save for Nebraska, and that's got an easy explanation).  So while this team will undoubtedly stress viewers out with some slow patches, it's also not crazy to assume that, for once, the other team won't hit 50% of their 2's or 60% of their 3's.


February 6th, 2018 at 2:35 PM ^

the second half of OSU was so bad that the full game efficiency was bad even though we came out scorching.  At Texas was bad throughout. VCU was pretty bad.  The aforementioned Nebraska game was bad.  Not sure there's enough of trend from the good ones you mentioned to offset the usual road difficulties that I'm confident about road games.  It almost seems like we just play to competition and get up for the big games.  Which wouldn't seem to bode well for this one but given our poor start last game, hopefully, we'll come out not wanting a repeat.

I am confident that we figured out the zone aagainst them last week and mostly blasted it after the first 10 min so I'm not too worried about this one.  For some reason I'm still irrationally afraid of going to the Troll Center this weekend.


February 6th, 2018 at 3:38 PM ^

Yeah, I've focused more on the past month or so.  Once they figured out their PG (and more generally their rotation), the road games have been better.  But that OSU game really turned on them having no idea what to do with the offense for long stretches.


February 6th, 2018 at 4:03 PM ^

of that OSU game from my memory.

And that's a good point about getting the PG situation settled.

But in the past month, we've only played three away games with two going very well for the offense, and one going realllly poorly so not sure what to make of that (I'm not going to extend back to Iowa because they have the 242nd best defense in the country - not that hard to be efficient against them).

Again, I do feel good about tonight. Knock on all the wood.


February 6th, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

It hasn't been called that since 1999. Do you have a personal gripe against Allstate? No worries if you do, but on the plus side the Allstate Rosemont Horizon is 5 minutes from my house, so I will be there tonight!


Go Blue!

Toe Meets Leather

February 6th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

to think that M by 1 on kenpom and a 1 1/2 point spread is way too close? I understand that home court advantage is significant, but in this case it's less so. M has had trouble with the zone but Beilein has to have something cooking to beat it. I cannot imagine than M will only score 5 points in the first 10 minutes and they still beat NW by 9 in that game.


February 6th, 2018 at 3:00 PM ^

for sure.  Odd choice indeed. They were able to run the baseline, right?  Even more reason to go with Mo v Donnal, IMO.

Either way, the failure was on the other end for switching D Walt and DJ, and thus leaving D Walt to guard Pardon.  Should have been in more of a zone look to keep DJ around the basket.


February 6th, 2018 at 2:05 PM ^

Have seen several great shows there. Depeche Mode, Page/Plant, REM, Barenaked Ladies. Used to be the "premium" indoor venue for large acts before the United Center opened. Pain in the dupa to get to, but I never came away disappointed.

Indiana Blue

February 6th, 2018 at 2:13 PM ^

I saw Yes with Wakeman, Howe, Rabin and Anderson at the Rosemont Horizon. White and Squire were always with the band regardless of who else played. Yes was my favorite band from my college days ....   and yeah, I'm old ...  but I did see Led Zeppelin live in concert at Market Square (and that's been torn down).

Go Blue!

Indy Pete - Go Blue

February 6th, 2018 at 2:01 PM ^

I cannot wait for round 2 of the Billy (yes, he goes by Billy) Donlon game where he has to face the best defense in the B1G, the year after he was brought in to fix the defense.  Luke Yaklich is going to out-Billy Billy again, to the viewing pleasure of Wolverines fans who love to win (even if it is ugly).  Go blue!


February 8th, 2018 at 11:30 AM ^

A matchup zone is a match-up zone...the 2-3 part makes me smile. In HS, that would be about 50 years ago :) , we played primarily "match-up". We would come down and show 2-3. If the opponent stayed in a two guard offensive set we stayed 2-3. If they went to a single/point set we would rotate to a 1-2-2 or 1-3-1...depending on who our on-court personnel were and  what else we wanted to do-like trap. We could/would rotate seamlessly between these zones multiple times on a single possession to match however the opponent attempted to adjust to our adjustments. We gave folks fits. We also pressed 1-2-1-1 three different ways for at least half the game. We "always" went to "match-up" out of the press. Otherwise our defensive set was determined by who scored or missed at our offensive end. 

So, when I see very gifted college players and their  coaches struggle to make adjustments...I just shake my head. Really??? There are aswers here...not necessarily easy but decent options...that's why the game is played.