#29 Michigan (16-9, 6-6 B1G) vs
#15 Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Thursday|
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.
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||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.
— Bart Trvik (@totally_t_bomb) February 13, 2017
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.
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.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
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.