|WHAT||Michigan (18-6, 10-2 B1G) vs. Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5)|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||1 pm Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||Michigan -6 (KenPom)|
|TV||CBS (PBP: Spero Dedes; Analyst: Bill Raftery)|
Right: The Stauskas Stepback [Chris Smith/UMHoops]
After Michigan State's victory over Northwestern last night, the Wolverines and Spartans are once again deadlocked at the top of the Big Ten standings with 10-2 conference records. The in-state rivals are two games clear of Iowa, victors over Penn State on Saturday. MSU hosts Nebraska and travels to Purdue before heading to Crisler next Sunday; Michigan, meanwhile, will have an entire week to prepare for the Spartans after this game.
Given that Michigan State (@Michigan, Iowa, @OSU) and Iowa (Wisconsin, @Minnesota, @MSU) both have three very tough matchups left on their respective schedules, a victory on Sunday would give Michigan the inside track to the Big Ten title, and quite possibly an outright one. According to KenPom, Michigan is at least a 66% favorite in every one of their remaining games—they have a 19% chance of running the table. Win this and a 15-3 conference record isn't just distinctly possible, it's the expectation.
Finishing atop the conference wouldn't just put another banner in the Crisler rafters; according to the mock NCAA bracket put together by media members in Indianapolis this week, the B1G champion is set to get the most desirable two-seed spot in terms of both matchup (Wichita State is easily the weakest one-seed) and location (Indianapolis).
THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP
If not for Wisconsin scoring the first basket, Michigan would've led wire-to-wire in their first win in Madison since 1999. The Badgers managed to cut a 15-point second half deficit all the way down to one before Nik Stauskas drilled a stepback three-pointer over Nigel Hayes.
Stauskas was brilliant, leading all scorers with 23 points while adding in four assists; Caris LeVert (20 points), Glenn Robinson III (14 on 6/8 FG), and Jondan Morford (combined 12 points, 14 rebounds, 6/6 FG) also excelled. Michigan scored 1.16 points per trip, their best mark against Wisconsin since 2006.
The Michigan loss represented the second of what would be five losses in six games for the Badgers, though they've since rebounded with three straight wins (@Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota).
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold:
|G||12||Traevon Jackson||Jr.||6'2, 208||76.2||23.3||No|
|Not particularly efficient, but gets to the line and shoots well from beyond arc|
|G||1||Ben Brust||Sr.||6'1 196||86.9||17.8||Always*|
|Very good outside shooter, mostly a catch-and-shoot guy, still hated|
|G||21||Josh Gasser||Jr.||6'3, 190||83.4||12.8||Always*|
|Tiny usage, great shooter, high FT rate despite more 3PA than 2PA, still hated|
|F||15||Sam Dekker||So.||6'7, 220||75.3||23.7||Kinda|
|Potential first-rounder, very efficient inside arc, few TOs, iffy outside shot|
|C||44||Frank Kaminsky||Jr.||7'0, 234||64.8||23.2||Not at all|
|Very effective near basket or outside, decent rebounder and shot-blocker|
|F||15||Nigel Hayes||Fr.||6'7, 250||44.7||25.5||Very|
|Solid scorer inside arc, foul magnet, poor FT shooter, active defender|
|G||24||Bronson Koenig||Fr.||6'3, 190||35.9||13.2||Yes|
|Barely played in first matchup, midrange shots falling, three-pointers not|
|F||13||Duje Dukan||Jr.||6'9, 220||20.8||17.6||Kinda|
|Stretch-four type seeing very few minutes in B1G play|
As is their norm, Wisconsin keeps a short bench (339th nationally in bench minutes); with Dukan barely getting any run in conference play, this is a seven-man rotation.
Point guard Traevon Jackson doesn't excel in any one area and has struggled to finish inside the arc (42.4% 2-pt), but he's a well-rounded player who can distribute the ball, knock down three-pointers (37.9%), and get to the line frequently. To combat his ability to get to the rim, Michigan used Caris LeVert to defend him in the first matchup; this worked out well—Jackson finished with 7 points on 12 shot equivalents while making just one trip to the charity stripe.
Noted/hated gunners Ben Brust and Josh Gasser round out the starting backcourt. Aside from Brust's higher usage and Gasser's higher FT rate, they're extremely similar players. Brust shoots 39.6% from three while leading the Big Ten in attempts; Gasser shoots 42.3% from beyond the arc, where he takes more than half his shots. Both are exceptional free-throw shooters and middling finishers inside the arc. Meanwhile, their lack of size is something Michigan can take advantage of on the other end of the floor—Stauskas worked Gasser off the pick-and-roll in the first game and LeVert was able to shoot right over Brust.
Athletic wing Sam Dekker takes the highest percentage of the team's shots, though his jumper has often failed him in Big Ten play—he's shooting 28.6% from beyond the arc in conference. He's at his best when he's able to attack the rim off the dribble; he was 5/10 on two-pointers in the first game, mostly generating those shots near the rim, and 0/3 on three-pointers. For a player who relies on driving as much as Dekker does, he takes care of the basketball very well.
Frank Kaminsky is a stretch four in a center's body, which has its positives and negatives. He's a very adept outside shooter (40.7% 3-pt) who can also go to work on the block (71.2% on shots at the rim, per hoop-math) and knock down midrange jumpers (42.9%); all these shots are pretty impossible to block. His rebounding numbers are good but not great, which hurts this small Wisconsin team, and considering his size he's not the most imposing interior defender, something Brian mentioned as a big factor in Michigan's previous triumph:
There is something wonky about Wisconsin's defense this year that was not the case last year. That is Wisconsin trading Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Neverending Ginger Assassin…
…for Frank Kaminski, Sam Dekker, and a 6'3" guard. Their ability to contest the jumpers their defense is designed to provide has been seriously compromised by their lack of size. Compounding issues: while Kaminski is taller than Berggren he's nowhere near Berggren's class as an intimidator.
Wisconsin packs the three-point line and plays a soft hedge against the pick-and-roll, theoretically forcing opponents to attempt difficult pull-up twos. This year, however, those shots have been a little easier, and the dropoff in interior defense has also led to opponents shooting unusually well against the Badgers from the outside due to drive-and-kick opportunities when the defense collapses.
The backup of real significance is freshman Nigel Hayes, whose FT rate of 103.4 (yes, he's attempted more FTs than FGs) would be third nationally and miles ahead of any B1G player if he got enough minutes; he's averaging just under 11 points per game in conference even though he hits just 59.5% of his free throws. Hayes has a wide, solid frame for a 6'7 guy, which allows him to split his minutes evenly between center and power forward, though his rebounding numbers aren't up to snuff for a big man. He utilizes a long wingspan to block his fair share of shots and generate a surprising number of steals, though he's also foul-prone (5.6 FC/40).
Fellow freshman Bronson Koenig gets sporadic minutes at guard and gets very little usage; he mostly functions as a spot-up shooter, though he's not doing well in that role (4/21 3-pt in B1G play).
From the first preview:
Wisconsin jumped out to a school-record 16-0 start before Tuesday's loss at Assembly Hall, and they didn't do it against the proverbial tray of cupcakes: those 16 wins include nine KenPom top-100 teams, four of which rank in the top 25 (Florida, St. Louis, Virginia, and Iowa). Their most impressive win is probably the 48-38 suffocation of #17 Virginia in the B1G/ACC Challenge that set the game of basketball back a good half-century.
Since then victories at the Kohl Center have lost some of their luster, as Northwestern(!) and Ohio State both triumphed there; the Badgers also lost by 13 at Minnesota during their early Big Ten skid. They've righted the ship with a road win at Illinois and home victories over MSU and Minnesota in their last three games. That Minnesota win came on Thursday night, so this is a pretty quick turnaround for the Badgers.
Both of these teams are heavily reliant on outside shooting to generate points, even though they go about generating those shots in wildly different ways; the gap in offensive efficiencies between the two can be almost entirely explained by Michigan's edge in three-point shooting (40.2% in Big Ten play to Wisconsin's 34.2%). Other similarities include subpar rebounding, few turnovers on either end, and remarkable foul avoidance on defense.
One area that could play to Michigan's advantage is Wisconsin's dependence on producing points at the free-throw line. The Badgers are second in the conference in FTA/FGA and score 25.4% of their points at the line, also second in the Big Ten. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have the second-lowest FTA/FGA allowed and give up the fewest percentage of points in the conference at the line—just 17.2%. Michigan matched Wisconsin in FTA in the first game; if they're able to do that again—and that feat should be easier at home—odds of a victory are pretty good.
Stick to shooters. Wisconsin's best chance at a victory is to generate a gap in three-point attempts and take advantage; Michigan was a little fortunate in the first game to match the Badgers's seven triples despite five fewer attempts. The bigs have to be very disciplined against Kaminsky, especially when deciding when to help on attacking guards; Jon Horford nearly gave up a huge three in the first game when he unnecessarily sunk into the paint. Meanwhile, the guards have to stick to Brust and Gasser like glue and run them off the line if necessary—two-point attempts from them, even open ones, are more optimal for Michigan than half-decent looks from beyond the arc.
Attack the soft middle. Michigan shot 55% on twos in the first game despite LeVert and Stauskas both missing a number of open pull-up attempts from the free-throw area. The gameplan probably won't deviate much from the first time around—lots of pick-and-rolls to generate those interior looks while keeping an eye out for the occasional open shooter when the defense collapses.
Limit transition chances. Wisconsin doesn't run much (surprise!), generating just 15% of their shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. When they run out, however, they're quite effective: the Badgers boast a 61.5 eFG% in transition compared to 51.6% in non-transition opportunities. Taking care of the basketball shouldn't be a huge issue—one exception: watch for post passes off of screens, as Wisconsin's bigs often sink into those and come up with steals—so this is all about hustling back after missed shots, something that Michigan has struggled with all year.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 6
Mark Donnal, redshirting stretch four type, is capable of doing this:
Favorite Instagram comment: "There's no way your white."
Grantland feature on Trey Burke and Jared Sullinger. Luke Winn puts Michigan at #8 in his power rankings, looks at past teams with similar gaps between offensive and defensive efficiency (make sure to read the Duke section right above Michigan for context). If you're anything like me, you'll enjoy this SBNation multi-article feature on the history of the dunk contest.
*Yes, this goes against the general principle behind SIBMIHHAT, but some wounds take a long time to heal.