Hoops Preview: Wisconsin, Part Two

Submitted by Ace on February 16th, 2017 at 3:33 PM


WHAT #29 Michigan (16-9, 6-6 B1G) vs
#15 Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 7 pm ET, Thursday
LINE Michigan -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -2 (Vegas)
PBP: Rece Davis
Analyst: Jim Calhoun

Right: Michigan must find a way to keep Ethan Happ from making his usual impact on both ends of the floor. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]


Michigan most likely needs to win one of their final two home games to make the Big Dance. At the moment, Wisconsin looks like the more vulnerable foe than Purdue, especially with the news that obnoxiously clutch guard Bronson Koenig will sit out tonight's game due to a calf injury.


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 0 D'Mitrik Trice Fr. 6'0, 178 42 17 117 No
Travis' younger brother will start for Koenig. Good shooter on 6/22 3-pt slump in B1G play.
G 3 Zak Showalter Sr. 6'3, 185 70 13 127 No
Barely shoots but very efficient when he does, low assist rate, good defender.
F 30 Vitto Brown Sr. 6'8, 235 53 21 100 Kinda
Good defender and rebounder, really struggling with shot and turnovers.
F 10 Nigel Hayes Sr. 6'8, 240 77 25 111 Kinda
Taken back seat to Happ as jumper has gone wonky. Still effective in post.
C 20 Ethan Happ So. 6'10, 232 67 29 114 Very
Efficient, high-usage post scorer, passes well, dismal FT%, great defender.
G 21 Khalil Iverson So. 6'5, 212 37 16 102 Very
Petway-esque jumping-jack swingman produces most of his offense at the rim.
G 1 Brevin Pritzl Fr. 6'3, 195 9 16 114 Kinda
Low-usage bit player getting more time, only 3/11 from field in B1G play.
G 11 Jordan Hill Jr. 6'4, 172 23 11 100 Kinda
Minutes tailing off but could see increased role with Koenig out.
F 15 Charles Thomas So. 6'8, 252 10 25 81 Not really
Forward with some range type struggling with finishing and turnovers.

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


Wisconsin has been a paragon of consistency seemingly forever, but even before Koenig's injury the Badgers were mired in an offensive funk. Since an 82-55 win over Penn State on January 24th, Wisconsin has failed to crack one point per possession in three of five games and haven't surpassed 1.03 PPP in the other two.

This slump hasn't come during a particularly tough stretch of games, either; the Badgers clawed their way to wins at Rutgers (in overtime!), Illinois, and Nebraska, and took a tight game at the Kohl Center against a struggling Indiana squad before falling to Northwestern at home on Sunday.

Between the Koenig injury and changes to the back end of the rotation, much of what was written in the first preview no longer applies. D'Mitrik Trice, younger brother of former MSU guard Travis, will take Koenig's place in the starting lineup. Trice is a similar player to his brother—read: shoot-first point guard—but while he started his freshman year with scorching outside shooting, he's hit only 6 of 22 three-point attempts in conference play.

Center Ethan Happ remains the go-to guy. Nebraska and Northwestern may have solved the defending Happ puzzle over the last two games. Both teams aggressively deployed double-teams; Happ went 6-for-17 with five assists and seven turnovers combined. Michigan actually fared well against Happ (and Nigel Hayes, too) while leaving their big men alone on him in the first game; they also had success forcing turnovers with more frequent double-teams against Indiana's big men. Beilein hinted that Michigan could follow Northwestern's lead:

“We analytically looked at the results of Northwestern’s doubles as opposed to ours,” he said. “I think we’ve got some options there we can utilize. Northwestern doubled off Nigel Hayes the entire game and scrambled back out of it. I think we’ve got to have a lot of ideas in our head and hopefully we’re good at all of them. Trying to put it all together is going to be a challenge. They’re a very smart team. … You’re not going to surprise them, but hopefully we can create some turnovers or create some tough twos for them to make.”

Hayes, who will draw DJ Wilson, still hasn't lived up to the potential he showed as a secondary option in his sophomore season. He's still an effective rebounder, defender, and passer, but his shooting splits in conference play aren't pretty: 46/23/64 (2P%/3P%/FT%). Northwestern was able to help on Happ with the defender guarding Hayes and it worked more often than not; that's an intruiging option given Wilson's length, which will make it tough for Happ to thread passes to Hayes if the double is timed well.

Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown round out the starting lineup. Showalter has been very efficient while only using the occasional possession. He's at his best as a spot-up shooter—every one of his 31 threes have been assisted—but he may have to do more with Koenig out. Brown has been the opposite type of player this season: high-usage and low-efficiency. He attempts more threes than twos but is shooting only 26% from beyond the arc in Big Ten games, and he turns the ball over a lot for a player who spends that much time floating around the perimeter. He remains a good defender and rebounder, at least.

Other than athletic, paint-oriented guard Khalil Iverson, it's anyone's guess who will rotate in off the bench with Trice drawn into the starting lineup. The Badgers have shaken up their rotation lately: forward Alex Illikainen has completley fallen out of the rotation in favor of Charles Thomas, who's shooting only 40% with a high turnover rate. Guards Devin Pritzl and Jordan Hill have gone back and forth as the preferred guard off the bench after Iverson and Trice; lately it's been Pritzl, but neither have been particularly good.


Conference-only stats.

Four Factors explanation

The Badgers don't play a pretty brand of offensive basketball. They're ninth in the conference in both two-point and three-point shooting and 13th in free-throw percentage; I can't help but note they run most of their offense through the post. They've salvaged the fifth-best offensive efficiency in the Big Ten with offensive rebounds and turnover avoidance. That hasn't changed during their recent slump, which is almost entirely the product of bad shooting both inside and outside the arc.

Wisconsin's defense is the best in the conference. Happ creates a ton of chaos in the paint; he's 11th in block rate, first in steal rate, and positionally sound without committing many fouls—a unicorn of a defender. With Happ, Hayes, and Brown forming a formidable last line of defense, opponents are making only 41.8% of their twos (lowest mark in the B1G) and turning the ball over often. There's some susceptibility on the perimeter; B1G opponents are making 38.8% of their threes, albeit on the fourth-lowest rate of attempts.


No cheap ones, Moe. Stopping Happ became even more important with Wisconsin's top perimeter player out of the equation. I looked at Michigan's success defending Happ the first time around in this week's Basketbullets, and let's just say Moe Wagner is much preferred over Mark Donnal in that role. (I realize this isn't exactly a revelation.) Wagner and DJ Wilson, who also did well guarding Happ, both fouled out of the game at the Kohl Center. They should get a friendlier whistle at Crisler; Michigan's success depends on it.

That said, help defenders, especially the less foul-prone guards, should be eager to hack Happ if he gets a good look; he shoots just 51% from the line. Greg Gard has gone so far as to pull Happ in late-game offensive possessions to avoid the Hack-a-Happ strategy. Tim Miles using a timeout when Happ was on the bench after that situation came into play may have cost Nebraska an upset last week (see #11).

Go through Walton for as long as it works. Derrick Walton is on an absolute tear and his matchup suddenly got a lot easier. I wouldn't be surprised to see Wisconsin put Showalter on Walton instead of hoping the freshman Trice can hang with him on defense; Showalter can get a bit handsy on defense, though, so I'd like to see Walton in attack mode regardless. Zak Irvin's 20 points kept Michigan close at the Kohl Center; they can't exactly rely on a similar performance right now.

Double and run. Happ turned the ball over twice on attempted skip passes when Michigan hit him with (then-rare) double-teams in the first game, and the last two UW games have shown that strategy can be very effective. Even if Michigan gives up the occasional easy feed inside, the benefit of doubling should outweigh the cost; Northwestern allowed Happ to dish out five assists, but he also had four turnovers and went only 3-for-8 from the field. Those turnovers would have a dual benefit: stopping Wisconsin and allowing Michigan to get out and run their lethal transition offense.


Michigan by 1.

If this game were in the Kohl Center, I'd expect Koenig to Willis Reed his way onto the court to bank in a game-winning three off one leg. Thankfully, Michigan is the home team tonight.


UMHoops preview. Dylan puts together the numbers on Irvin's slump.


A Lot of Milk

February 16th, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

If this turns into a free throw shooting contest, for the love of God just foul Happ before the ball is even inbounded. There's nothing that says you can't do this and it'll force Wisconsin to take him off the floor entirely


February 16th, 2017 at 4:04 PM ^

I realize there's always the risk of getting called for an intentional foul, which refs never call at the end of games when that's exactly what is happening.  But I have always wondered why teams don't just start grabbing blatantly before the pass - no time off the clock and pick your shooter.  


February 16th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

I though M's offense was bad when dribbling around perimeter and hoisting; most of the B1G's offenses are objectively hard to watch. So, I appreciate M's offense much more than I did previously.

I don't know what happened to continuous motion offenses, but they're few and far between. 


February 16th, 2017 at 4:59 PM ^

but the shortened shot clock in college really hinders offenses.  In the NBA, you have a few guys on each team who can take their man one on one and either create their own shot or a shot for someone else.  A lot of college teams are lucky if they have one guy on the floor who can do that.  By the time college teams get the ball across half court they only have about 10-15 seconds to run their offense and then they have to set up a pick and roll or try to let someone go one on one.


February 16th, 2017 at 5:22 PM ^

Yeah, and arguably One on One is harder to pull off in college, because it's easier to concentrate your defense on one player (both because of more zone defenses AND the fact that college teams aren't as deep, so the 2nd, 3rd and 4th options aren't usually as dangerous). 


February 16th, 2017 at 5:40 PM ^

I don't think that it's a shot clock thing as much as it is a teams purposely wasting time thing. Seriously, watch how long it takes some of these teams to get into their offense, many of them will completely waste much of that time that leads to there being 10-15 seconds left. But I may be biased by my insistence that playing at a snails pace is counter-productive in almost every situation.


February 16th, 2017 at 4:50 PM ^

Just need to keep taking care of that ball and keep the fouls to a minimum...unless it's Happ or Hayes for that matter.  Hope that home crowd is rockin' tonight!!