|WHAT||Michigan at Minnesota|
|WHERE||Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|WHEN||7:00 PM Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Minnesota –3 (Kenpom)|
Right: Rodney Williams, marginally athletic dude.
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.
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).
|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.
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