|WHAT||Michigan v. Oakland|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 18th, 2010
Michigan has quietly put together a solid start to the 2010-11 season, with a small handful of games against top competition amongst blowouts over the weaker sections of Division 1. Oakland, on the other hand, has been tested in nearly every game this year, losing to top-20 competition in West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan State before finally getting a showcase win against Tennessee on Tuesday. All of those were on the road except the Michigan State game, played at the Palace of Auburn Hills, a "neutral site" that skewed pro-Spartans.
The Golden Grizzlies are tested, and not a team Michigan can bully around in Crisler Arena tomorrow. They have to be concerned about the inverse. Oakland has an excellent duo in 6-11 center Keith Benson, a likely NBA Draft pick this spring, and diminutive junior guard Reggie Hamilton. PF Will Hudson has good size at 6-9 and leads the team in eFG% without attempting a single 3-pointer. With a number of capable role players to round out the roster (though erstwhile Wolverine Laval Lucas-Perry is ineligible to compete until next season), this is a solid squad.
Michigan, meanwhile, has had a nasty habit playing to the level of their competition--which has been mostly down. Their last time out was an uninspiring performance against North Carolina Central which featured abysmal shooting and indecisive offense, especially against zone. A young team like the 2010-11 Wolverines could use an early confidence booster, but Oakland may not provide it. With a win over the Golden Grizzlies, Michigan has a good chance to play themselves into the NIT during the Big Ten season.
With a few games under each team's belt, it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Oakland Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. OU Def eFG%||138||133||-|
|Mich Def eFG% v. OU eFG%||25||69||M|
|Mich TO% v. OU Def TO%||74||279||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. OU TO%||166||175||-|
|Mich OReb% v. OU DReb%||169||184||M|
|Mich DReb% v. OU OReb%||28||12||O|
|Mich FTR v. OU Opp FTR||319||151||OO|
|Mich Opp FTR v. OU FTR||10||150||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. OU AdjD||100||137||M|
|Mich AdjD v. OU AdjO||33||28||-|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Oakland's tempo-free numbers aren't that impressive, but considering the schedule they've been doing it against, they're performing well. Michigan has a big advantage in holding onto the ball, while the Grizzlies have an advantage in not sending Michigan to the line.
The size of Oakland may give Michigan troubles, as the interior defense has been OK at best for most of the year. Drawing charges early against Utah got Jason Washburn and David Foster into foul trouble early, negating Michigan's height disadvantage. If they can get Oakland's talented big man into trouble early, they should be able to succeed on both ends of the court with Benson on the bench. Michigan's depth among big men has improved with the emergence of Jon Horford, so they can afford giving up a couple fouls trying to draw charges.
Making good decisions offensively will be another key for the Wolverines. Though they haven't been turning the ball over much, shot selection has been questionable lately. Players were passing on open shots against NC Central, and then forcing well-defended shots later in the shot clock. Taking what's available will make the offense run much more smoothly.
Oakland isn't going to come into Crisler Arena scared of the atmosphere. They've played in tougher venues several times this year (and against better teams, too). However, they may be out of gas early in the game, and have a letdown from finally getting that big-name win (or even a look-ahead to Ohio State on Thursday). At the first TV timeout, I think Michigan will have a small lead.
However, by halftime, I think the Grizzlies will have settled into a groove, so Michigan will have to get the confidence rolling early, knock down some shots, and hopefully get out on the break a little bit. The game should be within a couple possessions either way at the half.
The Wolverines have a tough task to handle against the best post player they've seen so far, and this will probably be the first time we see a Wolverine foul out this season. That means more evenly-distributed minutes than we've seen lately among the big men, an a lot more Colton Christian.
At the end of the day, I think Michigan's players and coaches will have good focus in preparation for this game, as they understand its importance. This could be the difference between the NIT or no postseason. That motivation, and the biggest crowd we've seen at Crisler this year (tickets available here) will help the Wolverines pull out the win, by a 69-62 score.