Preview: Minnesota

Submitted by Ace on January 17th, 2013 at 3:40 PM

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan at Minnesota
WHERE Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota
WHEN 7:00 PM Eastern, Thursday
LINE Minnesota –3 (Kenpom)
TV ESPN/WatchESPN

Right: Rodney Williams, marginally athletic dude.

THE THEM

The going doesn't get any easier for Michigan after their loss at Ohio State, as the Wolverines travel to Minnesota to take on KenPom's seventh-ranked team.

Minnesota has been one of the surprise teams in the country on the strength on their athleticism, and that starts up front. Center Trevor Mbakwe is back for his sixth year and has been a terror on the boards, posting the nation's #9 offensive rebound rate and #33 defensive rebound rate. He also shoots 58.3% from the field while drawing a ton of fouls (though he only hits 65.8% of his free throws) and producing a top-100 block rate on the other end of the floor. Mbakwe doesn't just get by on his athletic ability—he's a strong post-up player who can score with his back to the basket.

Power forward Rodney Williams is a smaller, bouncier version of Mbakwe. He's got a nearly-identical 58.1 2P% to go with impressive offensive rebound and block rates and a propensity for getting to the line, where he has similar struggles (64.7 FT%). Unlike Mbakwe, Williams doesn't do so well on the defensive glass, and he'll shoot the occasional three (31.6 3P%). In a game full of athletes, Williams is the most likely to throw down a Sportscenter-level dunk.

While Mbakwe and Williams do much of the work on the glass, Minnesota wouldn't be the country's best offensive rebounding team without help from their guards. Their pair of 6'4" starting wings, Joe Coleman and Austin Hollins, boast 7.2 and 7.2 offensive rebound percentages, respectively; for comparison, Glenn Robinson is at 9.8%, while none of Michigan's starting guards has an OR% above 1.8. Coleman does most of his scoring work inside the arc (54.0 2P%), while Hollins takes over half his shots from three-point territory, where he shoots 39.5%.

Rounding out the starting lineup is point guard Andre Hollins, a sharpshooter (43.0 3P%) who dishes out a lot of assists but also struggles with turnovers. The two Hollinses and Coleman all get a healthy number of steals, as well.

If Michigan can get the Gopher starters into foul trouble, there's a serious dropoff to their replacements off the bench. Backup guard Julian Welch is having a horrid year shooting from both inside and outside the arc. Spectacularly-monikered guard Maverick Ahanmisi is a decent three-point threat, but he also has an ugly 28.7% turnover rate. 6'8" spot-up shooter Oto Osnieks has connected on just 2-of-20 three-point attempts this year, while backup center Elliott Eliason has a nasty love affair with worst shot in basketball—according to hoop-math, 62% of his shots are two-point jumpers, and he makes just 17% of them.

THE RESUME

Minnesota has a solid slate of wins against KenPom100 teams, beating Michigan State at home by 13 and blowing out Illinois on the road by 17 to go along with wins over Memphis, Stanford, Florida State, USC, and North Dakota State. Their two losses have come to Duke (by 18 in a neutral-site game) and Indiana (by 7 at Assembly Hall after digging themselves a huge first-half hole).

THE TEMPO-FREE

Four factors:

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 52.0 (55) 21.9 (247) 48.0 (1) 44.7 (18)
Defense 43.5 (32) 23.0 (66) 35.1 (283) 32.1 (102)

The ridiculous offensive rebound rate obviously stands out here, and that numbers hasn't dropped much in conference play—the Gophers are first in the B1G at 44.9% while maintaining their strong shooting and foul rates. On the negative side, they've also kept up their ugly turnover rate, though this is an area Michigan doesn't usually exploit.

The dropoff has come on defense, where the Gophers still give up a ton of offensive rebounds but have stopped forcing turnovers (17.6% in four conference games). Opponent shooting has taken a jump near the D-I average on the strength of a big rise in two-point shooting; presumably, Big Ten teams are better equipped to handle Minnesota's athleticism up front.

THE PROTIPS

Everybody hit the glass. Something's got to give when Minnesota's absurd offensive rebounding goes against Michigan's stellar defensive rebounding. Four of Minnesota's five starters are big threats to hit the offensive glass, so it's imperative that every Wolverine on the floor is focused on boxing out and securing any rebounds.

There's an added benefit to the guards hitting the defensive boards—I'll have much more in a post tomorrow, but the short version is that Michigan gets out in transition best when their guards are getting rebounds. If they can counter on the fast break and force Minnesota to stop selling out for offensive rebounds, that'll give Michigan a huge edge.

Get physical. Putting Mbakwe and Williams on the line is preferable to letting them dunk, of course. With Jon Horford back in the rotation, Michigan has three bigs plus Robinson to throw at those two. On the other end, if the Wolverines can get back to going to the basket—something they couldn't do at all against OSU—the Gophers don't have the depth up front to mitigate any foul trouble.

If Michigan can't draw fouls on offense against Mbakwe and Williams without getting too many shots blocked, they have another way to get them in foul trouble: take charges. Mbakwe and Williams aggressively attack the rim, but they may be less inclined to do so if they're hit with a couple early offensive fouls.

Work the pick and roll. Michigan has to get their bread-and-butter play going again after Ohio State shut down that aspect of their offense. Against Minnesota, there's the extra benefit of drawing Mbakwe—and his shot-blocking prowess—away from the basket.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Minnesota by 3

Elsewhere

UMHoops preview. Q&A with Maize & Brew at The Daily Gopher.

Comments

Needs

January 17th, 2013 at 3:53 PM ^

I'd love to see Minny's defensive points per possession on possessions after the opponent secures a defensive rebound. If their guards are going to the offensive glass that hard, they have to give up a ton of transition points (and thus a high PPP number) when they fail to get the offensive board, unless their two guards are unusually disciplined about insuring that one of them gets back while  the other crashes.

TWSWBC

January 17th, 2013 at 4:09 PM ^

Ace, do you think you could add some insight as to why Minnesota will win by 3 or if you think Michigan has a chance to win?  For instance, if you think we will get dominated on the boards and Minnesota will get a bunch of second chance points that lead to the difference in the game it would be nice to know.  Maybe that is just your Protip section? Anyways, good posts nonetheless.

Ace

January 17th, 2013 at 4:25 PM ^

I think Michigan has a decent shot, but I'm worried they won't be able to capitalize on Minnesota's big offensive weakness: turnovers. They usually cough up the rock a lot, but Michigan is second-to-last in the conference at forcing turnovers. Throw in the fact that the Wolverines have struggled with the more athletic teams they've faced, especially in the pick-and-roll game, and I think the KenPom line is a fair one.

M-Wolverine

January 18th, 2013 at 12:34 AM ^

From the past, the ones where they're laughably wrong matter as much as the ones that were project right.

And the vast majority of them are wrong. Saying Minnesota is going to win by 3 is as random as someone above correctly picking them by 8. Any projection of that kind is folly. But we all go "AH HA" the few times they're close to right, rather than being how we'd be with any other dude and saying "good guess."

Everyone remembers the few things people who claim to see the future get right, but ignore the hundreds they get wrong.

Needs

January 17th, 2013 at 4:16 PM ^

That's a recipe to get killed on the offensive boards. Really difficult to block out an athletic team like Minnesota in the 1-3-1.

I'd be surprised to see much other than man-to-man because of the rebounding. Maybe some occasional changeup 2-3 zone.

El Jeffe

January 17th, 2013 at 4:49 PM ^

I wonder if a winning strategy here will be instructing our bigs to maul Williams and Mbakwe while blocking them out and on putbacks. We might give up some fouls, but with 5 * (JMo + McGary + Horford + Bielfeldt + McLimans? + Robinson) = 30, we might take a chance putting them on the line some, even though that's not usually our bag.

I mean, if memory serves we haven't even sniffed foul trouble this year, so it might be worth it to take a few hard fouls to slow their crashing down and make them earn it at the stripe.

EDIT: I realize I more or less parroted Ace's "get physical" para. I guess I'm suggesting more like "get really physical." Like Bad Boys/Jordan Rules-era Knicks physical. Not sure that's in our DNA, though.

B-Nut-GoBlue

January 17th, 2013 at 5:22 PM ^

Agree in that I'd like to see the Pick n'Roll/Rub get back its prominence and effectiveness; Some of that relies on Trey but as was "picture-paged" the other 4 have to be better running that type of offense, as well.

Michigan by, 8 or so.  I think there will be some scoring in this one, as opposed to the past week and a half of BigTen games (into the 70s/80s)

dc22

January 17th, 2013 at 5:24 PM ^

I am a believer of certain coaches having another coach's number and Coach Beilein has done very well against Tubby Smith with lesser teams. I see this as a 5+ point win for Michigan.

TheDirtyD

January 17th, 2013 at 5:41 PM ^

I think your going to see Burke come out on fire and Michigan is really gonna show off some fire power tonight against a quality team. They're mad about that loss trust me on that one.

snarling wolverine

January 17th, 2013 at 6:05 PM ^

FWIW, while they did beat MSU by 13, the game was closer than that most of the way.  MSU had the lead at times in the second half.  Minn went on a decisive run near the end to finish with that double-digit margin.