|WHAT|| #24 Michigan (19-6) vs
#76 Northwestern (14-10)
|WHEN||7 PM EST|
|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.
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||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.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1.