|WHAT||Michigan v. Utah|
|WHERE||Salt Lake City, UT|
December 9th, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan –1*|
|TELEVISION||CBS College Sports|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Despite coming away with a victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Michigan's shooting woes continued on Saturday. Coach Beilein joked at the beginning of his Monday press conference "Believe it or not, we're trying to get some extra shooting in." Beilein noted that the shooting problems have not been consistent from game-to-game, and even in practices. There could be mental or physical reasons, or simply a lack of good practice reps (the Wolverines' travel schedule to Orlando prevented them from getting adequate practice prior to the BC game).
Teams have slumped shooting like this before and recovered under Beilein. Michigan struggled midway through last season, and the 2005 West Virginia team lost to Villanova by 38 points to open the conference season - then still managed to make the Elite 8. While Michigan's slump is definitely frustrating, it's a salvageable situation.
Manny's hamstring issue is still ongoing. "He's gonna be limited a little bit," said Beilein. Harris has had trouble with his offensive explosion, and getting a little rest might help. Ben Cronin is still suffering through his injuries, and his lateral motion is still not where it should be to play at this level. Beilein didn't rule out a medical waiver for a 6th-year for Ben.
To acclimate to altitude (Salt Lake City is more than 4,000 feet above sea level), the Wolverines headed out West on Tuesday to get a full practice under their belts instead of than their usual shootaround in the arena. "It's a long way to go, and I just wanted to practice there one time," said Beilein.
Utah is typically a very tall team, and this year is no exception. "It's just what you always expect from Utah: they're huge," said Beilein. 7-footers Jason Washburn and David Foster have played nearly every minute between the two of them, and Kim Tillie isn't much shorter at 6-11. The rest of the Utes are pretty big as well, with starting guards Carlon Brown and Luka Drca—not a typo—standing 6-5. Point guard Marshall Henderson is the runt of the bunch at 6-2. This should be a tough matchup for the Wolverines height-wise, though Utah doesn't rebound very well, despite their size. Michigan has to decide whether to match their height, or play small. "You can mismatch them and hope for the best, or you can match them and hope for the best," said Beilein.
The Utes have struggled so far this year, dropping home games to Idaho and Seattle. They've also fallen to Oklahoma State and Weber State away from home. Seemingly the lone bright spot on their resume so far is a 2-point tournament win over Illinois (disregard that the Illini fell to Bradley the very next day, of course). A win over Michigan would be big for the Utes in righting the ship. Of course, the same could be said for Michigan.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Utah: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Pine Bluff Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Utah Def eFG%||251||111||UU|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Utah eFG%||211||171||U|
|Mich TO% v. Utah Def TO%||2||311||MMMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. Utah TO%||19||33||M|
|Mich OReb% v. Utah DReb%||264||194||U|
|Mich DReb% v. Utah OReb%||300||238||U|
|Mich FTR v. Utah Opp FTR||304||175||UU|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Utah FTR||8||116||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. Utah AdjD||176||156||U|
|Mich AdjD v. Utah AdjO||81||143||M|
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.
This Utah team, despite dropping a few winnable contests, is not truly bad in any way except for forcing turnovers. Fortunately, that gives Michigan a huge advantage in holding onto the rock. Other than that, the game is fairly even.
The only categories in which one team has an advantage of more than 100 places in the national rankings are Michigan's shooting against Utah's defense, and each team's ability to keep the opponent off the free throw line. The Wolverines' shooting woes, however, seem to be defense-independent, and merely a product of a shooting slump for Michigan snipers like Zack Novak and Stu Douglass.
Getting to the line is something that Utah doesn't excel at, surprising given their size. Michigan, for all their troubles defending in the paint, hasn't sent opponents to the stripe a lot. With a team the size of Utah, the Wolverines might have to foul a lot more to keep them from getting easy points. It's tough to know though, given that the Utes haven't forced fouls from much smaller teams. Michigan hasn't gotten to the line much this year themselves, and a big team like Utah should be able to defend without fouling.
This is a very close matchup, and it could swing one way or the other on any number of seemingly small factors. Unfortunately, it's the first true road game for the Wolverines, and it's unlikely that the shooting slump comes to an end in the Hunstman Center. This looks like a game that the Utes pull out, as the lead widens in the final minutes to make the game look more one-sided that it truly was.