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Archive for the ‘Preview/Prediction’ Category

First Look: Hawaii

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Hawaii dance

Game week is finally here. In five days, Michigan will kick off Year 2 of the Jim Harbaugh era against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. While Michigan fans will finally get their first look at the Wolverines, Hawaii already has a game under their belt. Like Michigan last season, Hawaii lead off the college football season, this time with a game against California in Sydney, Australia. And like Michigan last season, it ended in a loss.

Cal beat Hawaii 51-31 on Friday night in a game that didn’t feature much defense from either team. The two offenses piled up over 1,100 total yards, 57 first downs, and 82 points. That’s not surprising given that the two teams ranked 118th and 108th in total defense a year ago.

Any hopes that new Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich had of an improved defense were put on hold for at least another week. Hawaii allowed 630 total yards including 441 through the air. Hawaii’s pass defense was actually respectable in 2015, ranking 42nd nationally, but Texas Tech transfer quarterback Davis Webb carved up the Rainbow Warrior secondary for 441 yards and four touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes. Michigan’s receiving corps will be licking its chops after seeing the performance of Cal receiver Chad Hansen, who caught 14 passes for 160 yards and two scores.

Offensively, Hawaii managed 482 total yards, which was more than they had in any game last season. But after a strong first quarter, Hawaii’s offense faded away until the game was well out of reach. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey completed 17-of34 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while running back Diocemy Saint Juste rushed for 118 yards and a score on 14 carries (8.4 yards per carry).

Simply looking at Hawaii’s offensive stats shows reason for hope this season, but the defense is still a sieve and it’s hard to see that changing against Michigan this weekend.

Since Michigan has yet to play a game, let’s take a look at how Michigan and Hawaii’s stats compared in 2015.

Hawaii 2015 team stats & Michigan comparison
Hawaii | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 17.6 | 31.4 118 50
35.6 16.4 105 6
Rushing Yards 1,611 2,057 3,118 1,589
Rush Avg. Per Game 123.9 158.2 115 | 83
239.8 122.2 118 16
Avg. Per Rush 3.8 | 4.2
4.5 3.6
Passing Yards 2,501 | 3,090 2,716 2,060
Pass Avg. Per Game 192.4 237.7 98 53 208.9 158.5 42 3
Total Offense 4,112 5,147 5,834 3,649
Total Off Avg. Per Game 313.6 395.9 120 69 448.8 280.7 104 4
Kick Return Average 21.3 28.4 60 3 26.7 20.5 123 | 48
Punt Return Average 7.7 11.4 71 31 7.5 11.5 56 95
Avg. Time of Possession 23:30 | 33:28 127 | 9
36:30 | 26:32
3rd Down Conversion Pct 31.0% | 46.0% 120 17
44.0% | 28.0% 99 3
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 31-217 | 18-95
82 | 27
25-145 | 32-250
75 | 35
Touchdowns Scored 29 | 50
59 | 24
Field Goals-Attempts 8-11 18-22
17-18 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (24-31) 77%|(52-56) 93% 105 7
(54-62) 87%|(27-34) 79% 93 37
Red Zone Touchdowns (20-31) 65%|(37-56) 66% (41-62) 66%|(14-34) 41%
OFEI/DFEI -1.42| .56 123 19 -1.45 | .63 122 15
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 17.9 34.7 119 32 34.0 13.6 99 | 2

While going 3-10 and 0-8 in the Mountain West Conference, Hawaii ranked near the bottom nationally in most categories, both offensively and defensively. On offense, Hawaii averaged two touchdowns fewer than Michigan, 34 fewer rushing yards, 45 fewer passing yards, and 10 fewer minutes of possession. Hawaii converted just 31 percent of third downs compared to Michigan’s 46 percent and they allowed 13 more sacks.

Defensively, Hawaii allowed nearly 20 more points, 118 more rushing yards, and 50 more passing yards per game than Michigan. They allowed opposing offenses to convert 44 percent of third downs, while Michigan’s defense only allowed 28 percent. They also allowed more than twice as many touchdowns (59 compared to Michigan’s 24) and allowed opponents to convert touchdowns on two-thirds of their red zone trips.

There is one area in which Hawaii fared better than Michigan last season, and that is punt return defense. Michigan gave up 11.5 yards per return, while Hawaii allowed 7.5. But that’s not a category that means a lot in the grand scheme of things, especially when there’s such a discrepancy in all of the other categories.

With nine returning starters on offense and a decent performance against Cal on Friday, there’s a good chance that Hawaii’s offense improves this season. But Michigan’s defense isn’t Cal’s. While Cal’s defense ranked 108th nationally in 2015, Michigan’s ranked fourth. If the Wolverines defense under new defensive coordinator Don Brown lives up to expectations, it will make for a long day for Hawaii.

Michigan hoops preview: NCAA Tournament vs (6) Notre Dame

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Michigan (23-12, 10-8) vs Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7)
Friday, March 18 | Brooklyn, N.Y. | 9:40 p.m. ET | CBS
LineNotre Dame -3
74.1 Points/gm 75.7
(922-1,985) 46.4 Field Goal % 47.1 (869-1,844)
(332-874) 38.0 3-pt FG % 36.9 (235-637)
(417-564) 73.9 Free Throw % 73.5 (450-612)
11.9 FT Made/gm 14.1
32.2 Reb/gm 36.1
14.8 Assists/gm 13.5
9.7 Turnovers/gm 9.7
67.3 Points/gm 70.6
(896-1,952) 44.5 Field Goal % 42.8 (821-1,918)
(243-710) 34.2 3-pt FG % 37.6 (246-655)
33.1 Opp. Reb/gm 33.8
5.5 Steals/gm 5.6
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Zak Irvin (11.9) Points/gm Demetrius Jackson (15.5), Zach Auguste (14.4)
Derick Walton (5.5), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Zach Auguste (10.8), Demetrius Jackson (4.8)

Less than 48 hours after their season came within a minute of ending, the Michigan Wolverines will take on Notre Dame in the Round of 64 Friday night.

Michigan survived a late Tulsa run Wednesday thanks to a game-winning three-pointer by Zak Irvin in the final minutes. Afterwards, John Beilein told anybody who would listen that he hasn’t seen a single look at the Fighting Irish and would start watching film on the plane to Brooklyn.

For the Wolverines to keep their season alive, they’ll have to greatly improve their shooting from beyond the arc. Michigan made just six of 25 attempts Wednesday and might need to double that total to beat a much stronger Notre Dame team.

Luckily for Michigan, Notre Dame is one of the worst defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament and struggles to defend the three-point line. Duncan Robinson will be a major key for a Michigan team that hasn’t shot particularly well for the better part of two months.

Notre Dame is led by senior forward Zach Auguste, one of the few college players to average a double-double this season. Auguste is second on the team with 14.4 points per game and leads the Irish with an average of 10.8 rebounds.

In the back court, Derrick Walton will be tasked with slowing down leading scorer Demetrius Jackson. Jackson 15.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. Walton will have to play like he did against Yogi Ferrell in the Big Ten Tournament, and not like he did against Tulsa’s back court, to slow down Jackson.

With Walton in foul trouble Wednesday, Michigan nearly watched their tournament lives slip away.

Auguste will be a major issue for a Michigan front court that got dominated on the defensive glass in the second half against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane is undersized, but Mark Donnal struggled to keep it out of the paint.

If Donnal comes out stagnant again Friday, look for Beilein to stick with freshman Mo Wagner, who gave Michigan excellent minutes Wednesday. He doubled his career high with four blocks and grabbed eight rebounds.

With a win, Michigan would earn a third elimination game in five days against the winner of West Virginia and Stephen F. Austin.

Michigan hoops preview: NCAA First Four vs (11) Tulsa

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Michigan (22-12, 10-8) vs Tulsa (20-11, 12-6)
Wednesday, March 16 | Dayton, Ohio | 9:10 p.m. ET | TruTV
LineMichigan -4
74.3 Points/gm 74.0
(898-1,926) 46.6 Field Goal % 44.4 (796-1,793)
(326-849) 38.4 3-pt FG % 32.9 (216-656)
(404-548) 73.7 Free Throw % 67.8 (486-717)
11.9 FT Made/gm 15.7
32.0 Reb/gm 35.0
15.0 Assists/gm 13.7
9.8 Turnovers/gm 10.8
67.5 Points/gm 69.7
(844-1,896) 44.5 Field Goal % 41.6 (733-1,760)
(240-695) 34.5 3-pt FG % 36.3 (235-647)
33.0 Opp. Reb/gm 37.0
5.5 Steals/gm 6.8
2.2 Blocks/gm 2.7
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Zak Irvin (11.7) Points/gm James Woodard (15.6), Shaquille Harrison (14.8)
Derick Walton (5.6), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Shaquille Harrison (5.5), James Woodard (5.2)

With all the drama from the regular season and Big Ten Tournament behind them, the Michigan Wolverines will begin their NCAA Tournament run tonight against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the First Four.

Michigan played its best basketball of the season in Indianapolis last week. On offense, the Wolverines moved the ball and made it a point to score in the paint. In the season-saving win over Indiana on Friday, Michigan didn’t have a second-half three-pointer until there was less than a minute left in the game.

Defensively, Michigan was led by Derrick Walton, who locked down on Yogi Ferrell. Walton and his teammates were more active on the defensive end and got their hands on more passes, leading to transition opportunities.

If Michigan can play as loose as it did in the Big Ten Tournament, it has an excellent chance to move on to first round action on Friday.

Tulsa is a formidable team dominated by upperclassmen. The starting lineup is comprised of four seniors and one junior, and three seniors get regular playing time off the bench.

The Wolverines will counter with a much younger rotation that includes no seniors and few juniors. In fact, if the Big Ten Tournament is any indication, a pair of young players may have a major impact off the bench.

Moritz Wagner gave Michigan excellent minutes against Indiana, making every shot he took for nine points and grabbing two offensive rebounds. Kam Chatman will also play a role after getting a steal on the final defensive possession and hitting the buzzer-beating triple against the Hoosiers.

For the Golden Hurricane, it’s led by a pair of senior guards who can shoot the ball from outside. James Woodard (6-foot-3, 192) and Pat Birt (6-foot-5, 182) score a combined 28 points per game and shoot nearly 37 percent from beyond the arc. If Michigan can slow down these two guards, Tulsa will be left without much of a three-point threat.

The most dangerous matchup for Michigan is Shaquille Harrison (6-foot-4, 189), who ranks second on the team with 14.8 points per game and leads the Golden Hurricane with 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Harrison is 6-foot-4, but it won’t be easy for the Wolverines to guard him man-to-man.

But if Walton and Zak Irvin find their offensive games early Wednesday night, Michigan will be in really good shape. Walton wasn’t much of a scoring threat in Indianapolis, but still pitched in 12 assists against Indiana.

Irvin struggled at times against Northwestern and Purdue, but overall he was good enough to be named to the All-Tournament team because of his clutch shooting.

Tulsa is led by the strong guard play that can lead to a deep run in the tournament, but if Michigan feeds off of its success from last week, it should be enough for the Wolverines to set up a date with Notre Dame.

Michigan hoops preview: #13 (4) Purdue

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Michigan vs #13 Purdue
Saturday, March 12 | Indianapolis, Ind.. | 12 p.m. ET | CBS
Line: Purdue -6.5
74.8 Points/gm 78.3
(875-1,865) 46.9 Field Goal % 47.3 (884-1,870)
(320-824) 38.8 3-pt FG % 37.3 (252-676)
(397-536) 74.1 Free Throw % 73.9 (485-656)
12.0 FT Made/gm 15.2
32.4 Reb/gm 41.2
15.0 Assists/gm 17.8
9.8 Turnovers/gm 12.2
67.2 Points/gm 64.7
(815-1,841) 44.3 Field Goal % 39.1 (746-1,908)
(236-683) 34.6 3-pt FG % 31.4 (196-624)
32.8 Opp. Reb/gm 30.1
5.5 Steals/gm 4.3
2.2 Blocks/gm 4.7
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Zak Irvin (11.8) Points/gm A.J. Hammons (14.7), Vince Edwards (10.7)
Derick Walton (5.6), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Caleb Swanigan (8.4), A.J. Hammons (7.8)

Michigan pulled off the upset it needed to give it a shot at an at-large bid come Sunday. But the work isn’t done yet. ESPN projects the Wolverines’ chances to be 50-50, but a win over Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on Saturday would likely be enough to push John Beilein’s squad into the Big Dance.

Michigan and Purdue split a pair of regular season meetings with each team winning on its home floor. Purdue won in West Lafayette, 87-70, on Jan. 7, while Michigan won 61-56 in Ann Arbor on Feb. 13.

In the first, Michigan stayed within striking distance until the 5:11 mark in the second half when Purdue scored 12 straight during a three minute Michigan scoring drought to pull away. In the second, Michigan held Purdue scoreless for the final 3:17, turning a 56-50 deficit at the time into a 61-56 win.

Big men A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan combined for 48 points and 20 rebounds in the two games, but the big difference was guard Raphael Davis and forward Vince Edwards, who scored a combined 27 points in the win but just nine in the loss on 2-of-14 shooting. Michigan will need to limit those two again on Saturday if it wants to advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

Michigan hoops preview: #10 (1) Indiana

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Michigan vs #10 Indiana
Friday, March 11 | Indianapolis, Ind.. | 12 p.m. ET | ESPN
Line: Indiana -6
74.8 Points/gm 82.7
(849-1,809) 46.9 Field Goal % 50.2 (910-1,811)
(314-803) 39.1 3-pt FG % 41.9 (312-745)
(383-520) 73.7 Free Throw % 72.0 (432-600)
12.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.4 Reb/gm 37.4
14.9 Assists/gm 16.1
9.8 Turnovers/gm 13.6
67.2 Points/gm 68.8
(791-1,788) 44.2 Field Goal % 44.1 (795-1,803)
(232-666) 34.8 3-pt FG % 34.5 (194-562)
32.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.3
5.5 Steals/gm 7.0
2.2 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (11.9) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.1), James Blackmon Jr. (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.0), Thomas Bryant (5.8)

Michigan stayed alive with a 72-70 overtime win over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon. Their reward? A matchup with Big Ten champion Indiana, who beat the Wolverines 80-67 on Feb. 2 in the season’s only meeting to date.

The Hoosiers have high hopes of making a deep NCAA Tournament run after winning the outright Big Ten title and look to capture the Big Ten Tournament crown as well. Michigan can clinch an at-large bid with an upset of Indiana, but will likely have to settle for the NIT if they lose.

Senior guard Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 17 points and nine assist in the first meeting, while sophomore guard Robert Johnson added 16 points. Ferrell is the Hoosiers’ unquestioned leader, averaging 17.1 points per game, but Johnson has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain he suffered against Purdue on Feb. 20.

Freshman forward OG Anunoby came off the bench to match his season-high of 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and senior guard Nick Zeisloft — a three-point specialist — scored eight.

Michigan made just 7-of-23 three-point attempts in that first meeting and will need to do better than that if they want a chance of winning. More importantly, Michigan must play with the same defensive intensity that it did against Northwestern on Thursday. Indiana made 33 shots in that first meeting — only 10-of-30 from downtown — and if Michigan can’t hold the Hoosiers below 27 field goals today they’ll find themselves in the NIT next week.

Michigan hoops preview: (9) Northwestern

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Michigan vs Northwestern
Thursday, March 10 | Indianapolis, Ind.. | 12 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -3.5
74.9 Points/gm 72.1
(827-1,751) 47.2 Field Goal % 45.3 (812-1,792)
(302-774) 39.0 3-pt FG % 35.6 (267-749)
(367-500) 73.4 Free Throw % 66.5 (343-516)
11.8 FT Made/gm 11.1
32.2 Reb/gm 36.2
15.0 Assists/gm 16.5
9.9 Turnovers/gm 10.5
67.1 Points/gm 65.8
(766-1,720) 44.5 Field Goal % 40.2 (694-1,726)
(221-639) 34.6 3-pt FG % 34.2 (215-629)
32.2 Opp. Reb/gm 34.3
5.5 Steals/gm 3.9
2.2 Blocks/gm 3.8
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (12.3) Points/gm Tre Demps (15.5), Bryant McIntosh (13.6)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Alex Olah (5.3), Sanjay Lumpkin (4.9)

Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes will be on the line when they face Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament in the first game of the day on Thursday. A win may still not be enough, pending the outcome of a quarterfinal matchup with Indiana, but a loss will surely send the Wolverines to the NIT.

The two met just once during the regular season, which Michigan won 72-63 in Ann Arbor, just two weeks ago. Michigan hasn’t won since then, dropping games to Wisconsin and Iowa, while Northwestern hasn’t lost, winning three by an average of 20 points.

Senior center Alex Olah (7-foot-0, 275) has had his way with Michigan the past three meeting dating back to last season, averaging 22 points and eight rebounds per game. He scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting in the meeting two weeks ago.

Fellow senior Tre Demps (6-foot-3, 202) has also given Michigan fits the past couple meetings, scoring 20 and 14 points, respectively, while making six of his 12 three-point attempts. The guard has been one of the Big Ten’s best scorers during the second half of Big Ten play, averaging 19.9 points and shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range over the last nine games.

Freshman forward Aaron Falzon (6-foot-8, 213) scored 14 points in the first meeting on 5-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-8 three-point shooting. Unlike Demps, that performance was out of character, one of only 11 double-digit games this season and his fourth-highest point total of the season. It was, however, the seventh game he has made four or more threes.

Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh (6-foot-3, 185) has been hot and cold during the second half of the Big Ten schedule with five games of 14 or more points and six games of eight or fewer. One of the latter was against Michigan two weeks ago when he managed just four points on 2-of-7 shooting. But he has had games of 33, 32, and 28 points this season.

The fifth starter is redshirt junior wing Sanjay Lumpkin (6-foot-6, 220), who didn’t attempt a single shot in 20 minutes of action in the first meeting and fouled out. He’s not a big scorer with just two games in double figures all season — none in Big Ten play — but he is the team’s second leading rebounder, averaging 4.9 per game.

Sophomore forward Gavin Skelly (6-foot-8, 225) came off the bench to score eight points in Ann Arbor two weeks ago, his second-highest scoring game of the season. Freshman center Dererk Pardon (6-foot-8, 230) and sophomore wing Scottie Lindsey (6-foot-5, 205) are the other main contributors off the bench and each scored two points in the first meeting. Pardon poured in 28 points against Nebraska on Dec. 30, while Lindsey has a season high of 26 against New Orleans on Nov. 28. Lindsey is the team’s best three-point shooter (40.7 percent) among those who shoot them regularly.

Michigan came out flat two weeks ago and dug itself a 17-4 hole early on. The Wolverines trailed most of the game until Aubrey Dawkins hit back to back second half threes to tie the game and Kameron Chatman hit a free throw to give Michigan its first lead with 9:15 to play. Another Dawkins three with 4:26 remaining gave Michigan the lead for good and they held on with free throws down the stretch.

Michigan will have to shoot better from three-point range than it did in that first meeting if they want to advance to face Indiana. The Wolverines made just 4-of-15 three-point attempts, but outscored Northwestern 20 to five at the free throw line. While Michigan made nine or more three-pointers in its first eight Big Ten games, they’ve managed to do that just twice in the final 10. Not surprisingly, they went 6-2 in those first eight and just 4-6 in the last 10.

Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, and Duncan Robinson combined to make just 1-of-9 three-point attempts in the first meeting and that won’t happen again today. Michigan should win a close one and keep their Big Dance hopes alive for another day.

Big Ten Tournament bracket set, Michigan to face Northwestern

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Big Ten Tournament

The Big Ten Tournament gets under way on Wednesday with Minnesota against Illinois and Rutgers against Nebraska. The top two seeds, Indiana and Michigan State, get double byes into the quarterfinals and won’t play until Friday.

Michigan (20-11, 10-8) will face ninth-seed Northwestern (20-11, 8-10) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at 12pm on Thursday in Indianapolis. A win would pit the Wolverines against top-seed Indiana at noon on Friday.

Michigan won the season’s only matchup against Northwestern, 72-63, on Feb. 24. The Wolverines made just four three-pointers in that game, but outscored the Wildcats 20-5 at the free throw line. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Derrick Walton added 16 and Aubrey Dawkins 11.

Northwestern, meanwhile, has won three straight since that loss, beating Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska by an average of 20 points. In the first meeting, Michigan had no answer for Alex Olah, who scored 19 points, while Tre Demps and Aaron Falzon each scored 14.

Big Ten Tournament
First Four First Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Championship Champion
Wed, Mar. 9 Thu, Mar. 10 Fri, Mar. 11 Sat, Mar. 12 Sun, Mar. 13
9. Northwestern 70
12pm BTN 8. Michigan 72
8. Michigan 72 12pm ESPN 8. Michigan
1. Indiana 69
13. Minnesota 52
4:30pm ESPN2 12. Illinois 68 1pm CBS
12. Illinois 85 2:25 BTN 12. Illinois 58
5. Iowa 66 2:25pm ESPN 4. Purdue
4. Purdue 89
10. Penn State 75  3pm CBS
6:30pm ESPN2 7. Ohio State 54
7. Ohio State 79 6:30pm BTN 2. Michigan State
2. Michigan State 81
14. Rutgers 72 3:30pm CBS
7pm BTN 11. Nebraska 70
11. Nebraska 89 8:55pm ESPN2 11. Nebraska 86
6. Wisconsin 58 8:55pm BTN 3. Maryland
3. Maryland 97

Michigan hoops preview: #16 Iowa

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Michigan vs Iowa
Saturday, March 5 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Iowa -1
75.4 Points/gm 78.8
(804-1,687) 47.7 Field Goal % 45.2 (802-1,774)
(294-740) 39.7 3-pt FG % 38.6 (239-619)
(360-488) 73.8 Free Throw % 71.8 (441-614)
12.0 FT Made/gm 15.2
31.9 Reb/gm 38.4
15.0 Assists/gm 15.8
9.9 Turnovers/gm 10.2
66.9 Points/gm 69.0
(738-1,658) 44.5 Field Goal % 41.5 (739-1,779)
(213-611) 34.9 3-pt FG % 31.0 (210-678)
32.1 Opp. Reb/gm 37.1
5.6 Steals/gm 6.8
2.2 Blocks/gm 5.0
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (12.2) Points/gm Jarrod Uthoff (18.4), Peter Jok (16.0)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Adam Woodbury (8.4), Jarrod Uthoff (6.4)

The regular season isn’t the only thing that comes to a close tonight when Michigan host the 16th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. So too do the careers of Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert. The only two seniors on the team will be honored for their contributions to the program the last four years, but despite all they have accomplished they’ll be in street clothes rather than tying up the laces one last time in the Crisler Center.

Albrecht’s senior season came to an end in December when hip injuries — for which he had surgery last offseason — became too much to bear. LeVert injured his left foot — which has nagged him since his sophomore season — during the first Big Ten game on Dec. 30, and although he tried to return against Purdue on Feb. 13, he played just 11 minutes and ultimately decided to hang them up.

Without their two senior leaders, Michigan has struggled with consistency during Big Ten play. On one night they beat Maryland or Purdue. The next night they lose by double digits. At 20-10 overall and 10-7 in the Big Ten, they desperately need a win over Iowa to make the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa has had its own struggles as of late, dropping four straight and five of their last six since starting the season 19-4 overall and 10-1 in conference. After the first week of February the Hawkeyes looked to be the clear-cut Big Ten title favorite. But the losses have piled up, first at Indiana, who will win the Big Ten, and then Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Indiana again. The only win since Valentines Day was a four-point home win over bottom-feeder Minnesota.

Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff (6-foot-9, 221), a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, leads Iowa and ranks second in the conference, with 18.4 points per game. He’s also the team’s second-leading rebounder, averaging 6.4 per game, and leads the team and conference with 2.7 blocks per game. He scored 23 in the season’s first meeting on 9-of-20 shooting.

Junior guard Peter Jok (6-foot-6, 205) is the only other Hawkeye averaging double figures with 16.0 points per game. He has taken (166) and made (69) the most three-pointers on the team, shooting at a 41.6 percent clip. Since scoring 16 in the first meeting, he has six games of 20 or more points and is averaging 18.8 points in that 12 game span.

Senior guard Anthony Clemmons (6-foot-2, 200) averages 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He managed just five points in the first meeting, but followed it up with a season-high 20 against Rutgers four days later.

Senior guard Mike Gesell (6-foot-2, 190) averages 8.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and a team-high 6.0 assists per game. He’s not a big-time scorer with just five games in double figures during Big Ten play, but he can when needed as he did with 25 points in a Dec. 29 win over Michigan State.

The fifth and final starter is senior center Adam Woodbury (7-foot-1, 250), who averages 7.9 points and leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game. He scored 12 against Michigan the first time around, but hasn’t scored more than six points in any of the last five games.

Sophomore forward Dom Uhl is the only other player who has started a game for Iowa’s veteran squad this season. He averages 6.4 points and 3.8 assists per contest and leads the team with a 47.1 percent three-point rate.

Fran McCaffrey doesn’t rely much on his bench, but aside from Uhl, redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer (6-foot-7, 200), freshman forward Ahmad Wagner (6-foot-7, 225), and freshman guard Christian Williams (6-foot-6, 200) get the minutes. Baer scored seven against Michigan in the first meeting, the second most he’s scored in Big Ten play, while Wagner scored five.

Iowa is the Big Ten’s third-best scoring team at 78.8 points per game. The Hawkeyes rank seventh in shooting (45.2 percent), fourth in three-point shooting (38.6 percent), and seventh in free throw percentage (71.8 percent). Defensively, Iowa gives up the ninth-most fewest points per game (69.0). They rank sixth in field goal percentage defense (41.5 percent) and second against the three (31.0 percent).

Iowa is favored by one point, and although they’re squarely in the Big Dance, they would like to gain some momentum heading into it. Michigan, meanwhile, is playing for its postseason life. A win would likely give Michigan enough of a resume to earn an at-large bid, especially if the Wolverines win their first Big Ten Tournament game. A loss, however, would leave Michigan with considerable work to do in Indianapolis next week. And that’s not an enviable position to be in.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: March 1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Power Rankings_header

Michigan State held onto the top spot this week, while Iowa plummeted to sixth following their third straight loss. Indiana moved up to second after clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title, while Wisconsin continued its ascension up to third this week.

Michigan remained eighth and finds itself on paper thin ice as far as NCAA Tournament hopes are concerned. The Wolverines may need a win over Iowa and at least one in the Big Ten Tournament to earn an at-large bid.

Penn State stayed in the ninth spot, while Northwestern jumped one and Illinois jumped two to 10th and 11th, respectively. Nebraska, Minnesota, and Rutgers fill out the cellar.

“Another week, another missed opportunity for Michigan,” said Derick. “Now it’ll take a win over a desperate Iowa team on Senior Night to limp into the Big Dance.”

1. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.7)
Last Week: Beat Ohio State 81-62, Beat Penn State 88-57
This Week: Wednesday at Rutgers, Saturday vs Ohio State
MSU 3-1-16
RPI: 14 | Best win: Nov. 17 vs #4 Kansas (79-73) | Worst loss: Jan. 20 vs Nebraska (70-71)
2. Indiana (23-6, 13-3) – Up 1 – 2.7 (Last week: 3.7)
IU logo
Last Week: Beat Illinois 74-47
This Week: Tuesday at #16 Iowa, Sunday vs #14 Maryland
Indiana 3-1-16
RPI: 27 | Best win: Feb. 11 vs #4 Iowa (85-78) | Worst loss: Nov. 23 vs Wake Forest (78-82)
3. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5) – Up 2 – 3.0 (Last week: 4.7)
Wisconsin logo
Last Week: Beat #8 Iowa 67-59, Beat Michigan 58-57
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Sunday at #15 Purdue
Wisconsin 3-1-16
RPI: 33 | Best win: Feb. 13 at #2 Maryland (70-57) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs Western Illinois (67-69)
4. Maryland (23-6, 11-5) – Even – 4.0 (Last week 4.3)
Last Week: Lost at #20 Purdue 79-83
This Week: Thursday vs Illinois, Sunday at #12 Indiana
Maryland 3-1-16
RPI: 10 | Best win: Jan. 28 vs #3 Iowa (74-68) | Worst loss: Feb. 18 at Minnesota (63-68)
5. Purdue (22-7, 10-6) – Up 1 – 4.7 (Last week: 6.3)
Purdue logo
Last Week: Beat #10 Maryland 83-79
This Week: Tuesday at Nebraska, Sunday vs Wisconsin
Purdue 3-1-16
RPI: 18 | Best win: Feb. 9 vs #8 Michigan State (82-81 OT) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
6. Iowa (20-8, 11-5) – Down 4 – 5.7 (Last week: 2.0)
Iowa logo
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 59-67, Lost at Ohio State 64-68
This Week: Tuesday vs #12 Indiana, Saturday at Michigan
Iowa 3-1-16
RPI: 22 | Best win: Jan. 14 at #4 Michigan State (76-59) | Worst loss: Feb. 17 at Penn State (75-79)
7. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6) – Even – 7.3 (Last week: 7.0)
Ohio State logo new
Last Week: Lost to #6 Michigan State 62-81, Beat #8 Iowa 68-64
This Week: Saturday at #2 Michigan State
Ohio State 3-1-16
RPI: 74 | Best win: Dec. 19 vs #4 Kentucky (74-67) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
8. Michigan (20-10, 10-7) – Even – 7.7 (Last week: 7.7)
Maize M
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 72-63, Lost at Wisconsin 57-68
This Week: Saturday vs #16 Iowa
Michigan 3-1-16
RPI: 57 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs #3 Maryland (70-67) | Worst loss: Feb. 16 at Ohio State (66-76)
9. Penn State (15-14, 6-10) – Even – 9.7 (Last week: 9.0)
Penn State Logo
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 56-55, Lost at 6 Michigan State 57-88
This Week: Thursday vs Northwestern, Sunday vs Illinois
Penn State 3-1-16
RPI: 98 | Best win: Feb. 17 vs #4 Iowa (79-75) | Worst loss: Nov. 24 vs Radford (74-86)
10. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10) – Up 1 – 10.0 (Last week: 11.0)
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 63-72, Beat Rutgers 98-59
This Week: Thursday at Penn State, Sunday vs Nebraska
Northwestern 3-1-16
RPI: 121 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs Wisconsin (70-65) | Worst loss: Jan. 16 vs Penn State (62-71)
11. Illinois (13-16, 5-11) – Up 2 – 10.3 (Last week: 12.7)
Last Week: Lost to #18 Indiana 47-74, Beat Minnesota 84-71
This Week: Thursday at #14 Maryland, Sunday at Penn State
Illinois 3-1-16
RPI: 163 | Best win: Jan 10 vs #10 Purdue (84-70) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs North Florida (81-93)
12. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10) – Down 2 – 12.0 (Last week: 10.0)
Nebraska logo
Last Week: Lost at Penn State 55-56
This Week: Tuesday vs #15 Purdue, Sunday at Northwestern
Nebraska 3-1-16
RPI: 169 | Best win: Jan. 20 at #11 Michigan State (72-71) | Worst loss: Dec. 20 vs Samford (58-69)
13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14) – Down 1 – 12.3 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 83-61, Lost at Illinois 71-84
This Week: Wednesday vs Wisconsin, Saturday at Rutgers
Minnesota 3-1-16
RPI: 239 | Best win: Feb. 18 vs #6 Maryland (68-63) | Worst loss: Dec. 5 vs South Dakota (81-85 2OT)
14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Rutgers logo
Last Week: Lost at Minnesota 61-83, Lost at Northwestern 59-98
This Week: Wednesday vs #2 Michigan State, Saturday vs Minnesota
Rutgers 3-1-16
RPI: 283 | Best win: Dec. 23 vs Fairleigh Dickinson (72-64) | Worst loss: Nov. 19 vs St. John’s (59-61)

Michigan hoops preview: Wisconsin

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Michigan at Wisconsin
Sunday, Feb. 28 | Madison, Wis. | 6 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
LineWisconsin -5.5
76.0 Points/gm 69.1
(780-1,637) 47.6 Field Goal % 43.1 (661-1,534)
(289-727) 39.8 3-pt FG % 35.8 (179-500)
(356-481) 74.0 Free Throw % 70.7 (435-615)
12.3 FT Made/gm 15.5
32.3 Reb/gm 35.5
15.1 Assists/gm 11.6
9.8 Turnovers/gm 11.1
66.9 Points/gm 64.3
(714-1,609) 44.4 Field Goal % 42.4 (641-1,513)
(205-590) 34.7 3-pt FG % 38.2 (169-442)
32.1 Opp. Reb/gm 31.9
5.6 Steals/gm 5.8
2.2 Blocks/gm 3.2
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (12.3) Points/gm Nigel Hayes (16.4), Bronson Koenig (13.5)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Ethan Happ (7.9), Nigel Hayes (5.6)

Michigan picked up the all-important 20th win with a comeback victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night. While that may be enough to earn an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, one more win would like make the Wolverines a lock on Selection Sunday. This afternoon, Michigan travels to Madison to battle a rising Wisconsin squad that also sits on the bubble.

Wisconsin is 18-10 overall and 10-5 in Big Ten play, but has surged over the past month, winning nine of their last 10. The only setback since Jan. 12 was a 69-57 loss at No. 8 Michigan State last week, and the Badgers have beaten Michigan State, No. 19 Indiana, No. 2 Maryland, and No. 8 Iowa during that span. They’ve gone from a team reeling from losing its hall of fame coach midway through the season to a team that could make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament and Big Dance.

Junior forward Nigel Hayes (6-foot-8, 240) is the leading scorer, averaging 16.4 points per game and also leads the team with 3.1 assists per game. He ranks second with 5.6 rebounds. He has been held below 10 points just three times all season — most recently in the loss to Michigan State in which he shot 1-of-13 from the field — but has scored 20 or more four times in Big Ten play. Hayes scored 10 and 11 points in the two matchups with Michigan last season on 7-of-19 shooting.

Junior guard Bronson Koenig (6-foot-4, 193) averages 13.5 points, 2.3 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game while shooting 40.2 percent from three-point range and 40.1 percent overall. He’s pretty consistent with 11, 13, 12, 16, 12, 14, and 15 points in his last seven games and he has made three three-pointers in five of those. He scored 13 and 12 against Michigan last season.

Redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ (6-foot-9, 235) leads the team and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 7.9 rebounds per game, while averaging 11.9 points. Unlike Koenig, he has been up and down in Big Ten play with games of 20 and 25 points against Penn State and Indiana, followed by six, 12, two, and four, then 18 against Michigan State and 20 against Illinois, and most recently, just five against Iowa.

Junior forward Vitto Brown (6-foot-8, 230) is the team’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 9.2 points and third-leading rebounder, averaging 5.2 rebounds per game. He has scored in double figures just three times in Big Ten play, all in a three-game span against Ohio State (12 points), Nebraska (18), and Maryland (21). Aside from a zero-point performance in the first meeting with Maryland, Brown has been between four and nine points in every other game.

The fifth starter is redshirt junior guard Zak Showalter (6-foot-2, 184), who averages 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. He’s the team’s second-best three-point shooter at 37.0 percent, but a better shooter from the field at 42.7 percent. He has a season high of 21 points against Rutgers on Jan. 2, but has managed double figures just twice since then.

Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Hill (6-foot-3, 178) is the only other Badger who has started a game this season (one) and averages just 3.3 points per game. He has a season high of 13 points in Wisconsin’s overtime win over Indiana, and also scored nine points in the win at Iowa on Wednesday.

Freshman wing Khalil Iverson (6-foot-5, 205), freshman forward Charlie Thomas (6-foot-8, 253), and freshman forward Alex Illikainen (6-foot-9, 220) are the other reserves, averaging 2.8, 2.8, and 2.7 points, respectively. They’re also the only other players off the bench to average double-digit minutes per game.

This year’s Wisconsin team is a far cry from the team that took Duke to the brink of the national title last April. Bo Ryan returned midway through the season as the Badgers were just 7-5, leaving assistant Greg Gard to try to turn things around. And while he lost four of his first five Big Ten games, he has the Badgers playing as well as anyone in the conference heading into March.

Wisconsin ranks 12th in the Big Ten in points per game (69.1), 10th in field goal percentage (43.1 percent), eighth in three-point percentage (35.8), and 10th in free throw percentage (70.7). Defensively, they rank second in points allowed per game (64.3) and eighth in field goal percentage defense (42.4), but dead last against the three (38.2 percent). That’s good news for a Michigan team struggling to shoot the three-ball the past few games.

Michigan has had trouble winning in Madison, dropping 11 of their last 12 trips to the Kohl Center. Expect a hard-fought, back-and-forth game that Michigan could win if its hits its threes. That could be said about every Michigan game, of course, but given the Wolverines’ recent slump don’t expect it to happen tonight. Another close loss leads to a week off before hosting Iowa to close regular season play next Saturday.