Preview: Holy Cross

Submitted by Ace on December 27th, 2013 at 5:03 PM

This preview is a short-ish diary because the bowl game takes front page precedence and, well, it's Holy Cross, not Arizona. I'll be taking this one in tomorrow as a fan—for the first time in three years—and will post a recap either Sunday or Monday.

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan vs. Holy Cross
WHERE Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 6:30 pm Eastern, Saturday
LINE Michigan –14 (KenPom)
TV BTN

Right: Center Dave Dudzinski, the Crusaders' leading scorer, can operate from the post or step out and knock down threes.

THE THEM

Michigan must find a way to slow down 6'9" center Dave Dudzinski, the team's leading scorer (17.1 ppg) and rebounder (7.6). While he spends most of his time working inside the arc, where he hits 51% of his shots, he's also knocked down 11 of 24 three-point attempts this year. He also draws a good deal of fouls and hits 80% of his free throws.

Flanking Dudzinski are 6'6" forward Malcolm Miller, a solid defensive rebounder and the team's most efficient scorer—albeit in low usage—and 6'8" forward Taylor Abt, who's started every game this year but averages just 16 minutes; he's active on the glass and otherwise doesn't add much to the box score. In addition to his excellent shooting (57% 2-pt, 44% 3-pt), Miller is far and away the team's most disruptive defender with 19 blocks and 12 steals in 11 games.

5'9" point guard Justin Burrell and 6'4" two-guard Eric Green round out the starting lineup. Green will start his seventh game of the season; he leads the team with 22 steals—his rate is 75th nationally—and he's a very good finisher around the basket, though he's struggled with his jumper. Burrell's turnover rate (23.5) is higher than his assist rate (22.8) and he's been a woeful finisher inside the arc, hitting just 11 of 37 twos—to his credit, he's knocked down 7 of 17 threes.

6'7" freshman Malachi Alexander is the team's third-leading scorer despite being their sixth man. While he's not a great shooter (49% 2-pt, 19% 3-pt), he draws six fouls per 40 minutes and capitalizes with a 75% rate from the line; he's also a solid defensive rebounder. The other key backup is 5'10" freshman Anthony Thompson, a marginally better shooter than Burrell who draws a lot more fouls (6.6/40) and doesn't turn the ball over as much; so far this season Thompson and Burrell have essentially split the point guard minutes right down the middle.

THE RESUME

With their best win coming by five points at home against KenPom #185 Albany, Holy Cross lacks a quality victory this season; their other five wins came against Sacred Heart, Fairfield, Hartford, New Hampshire, and NJIT. They have a couple respectable losses: a ten-point defeat at #30 Harvard and an eight-point loss at #19 North Carolina. Then there's the bad: a 12-point loss in their road rematch with #233 Hartford and a ten-point fall against #144 Canisius, John Beilein's former school. They also needed double overtime to finish off #280 Sacred Heart at home.

This team beats the teams they're supposed to beat—though sometimes by uncomfortably thin margins—and loses to the teams that should beat them. They haven't really given a favorite a serious scare, either; though they led the Tar Heels by three points early in the second half, UNC pulled away and held a 13-point lead with six minutes to go.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Four factors (national ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 50.6 (121) 19.6 (224) 28.5 (260) 49.8 (45)
Defense 49.7 (178) 19.8 (90) 27.6 (41) 40.4 (163)

This looks to be a good matchup for Michigan, as Holy Cross relies on three-pointers, which the Wolverines have defended quite well this year, and free throws—which Michigan rarely allows—to generate more than half of their points. They're not a great shooting squad inside the arc and aren't very good at getting putbacks or taking care of the ball.

Defensively, the Crusaders are very average across the board with the exception of forcing turnovers and preventing offensive rebounds.

THE PROTIPS

Bigs, stay out of foul trouble. Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan should be able to limit Dudzinski's offense—that is, as long as they're not putting on a repeat performance of the Stanford foul parade. Max Bielfeldt is a much better matchup for Dudzinski; also, any shooting foul is compounded by the fact that Dudzinski shoots 80% from the line. Horford and Morgan must show a better awareness for when to contest a shot, when to plant and hope for a charge, and when to pack it in and live for another possession.

Play your game. Michigan should be able to run their normal lineups/sets without much adjustment. Holy Cross doesn't provide any major size mismatches and their style of play—slow-paced, foul-reliant, not crashing the class, and turnover-prone—should work in Michigan's favor.

DIE, 2013. Self-explanatory.

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Michigan by 14

Elsewhere

UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview.

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