Michigan Basketball (19-1, 6-1) will put their #1 ranking on the line Wednesday night when they host Northwestern. Tip is scheduled for 6:30pm (EST) and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Northwestern is a hard team to figure out. They have alternated wins and losses in each of their last seven games. In their last game, the Wildcats lost at Nebraska on Saturday. That came right after an impressive home victory over Minnesota. Michigan opened the Big Ten season by thrashing Northwestern 94-66 in Evanston. Reggie Hearn, NU’s leading scorer, did not play in that game. With all due respect to Reggie, it mattered little that he did not play.
Redshirt freshman Tre Demps has moved into the starting line up for Northwestern. He is averaging 9.7 points over the Wildcats last 12 games. Over the last 4 games Jared Swopshire is averaging 13 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Michigan ascended to the top of the polls after knocking off Purdue and winning at Illinois last week. It’s the first time the Wolverines have been ranked #1 since 1992, when the Fab Five was revolutionizing College Basketball.
Michigan boasts the nation’s top offensive team. John Beilein and his staff have assembled a very dynamic group of players. The Wolverines can and do hurt the opposition in a variety of ways. It starts with the ringleader and national player of the year candidate, Trey Burke. He is having a season for the ages and is etching his name in Michigan lore as one of the best point guards to ever play for the Wolverines. Burke pairs with Tim Hardaway Jr. to give Michigan the top backcourt in the nation. Hardaway is playing the best basketball of his career. He is averaging a career best in points (15.9), rebounds (5.2), assists (2.5), field goal percentage (49.1) and three-point field goal percentage (40.9). Hardaway Jr has also been playing great defense and ranks second on the team with 12 blocked shots.
Jordan Morgan injured his ankle in the win at Illinois and is not expected to play against Northwestern. John Beilein wouldn’t tip his hand as to who would start in his place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jon Horford get the nod. However, in my opinion, I think Mitch McGary has earned the right to start in Morgan’s place. He has been a revelation with his passion and intensity. He is also much more athletic than you would expect from a 6-foot-10, 250 pounder.
Glenn Robinson III is the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week. He is a fantastic dunker and one cool customer on the court. The savvy frosh is never rattled and plays with a confidence and swagger. He is a very efficient player. Robinson III ranks 5th in the B1G in field goal % (59.0). He ranks 15th in rebounding (6.0) and 20th in scoring (12.1). Fellow freshman, Nik Stauskas continues to rank among the nation’s best in terms of three-point percentage (49.0) and free throw percentage (83.3).
Worried that Michigan might overlook the Wildcats in anticipation of their epic showdown with #3 Indiana on Saturday night? Don’t be. At Tuesday’s press conference John Beilein said the team is practicing like this game against Northwestern is their last game of the season. That’s not just coachspeak either. This team is very focused under the steady leadership of their best players.
In a segment on ESPN, Jalen Rose provided one of the best descriptions of Michigan that I have heard. “I also appreciate the demeanor that they play with,” Rose said. “They continue to stay in the moment, they’ve been humble all season, and it’s just a thrill to be able to root for this team.” Rose also proposed a fantastic idea, to have all 5 members of the Fab Five sit courtside at a Michigan game this year. Click here to see the video: Jalen Rose
Predictions: So far this season I am 19-1 and Joe is 18-2 predicting the outcome of Michigan Basketball games. We both like the Wolverines to win this one.
Joe: Michigan 83-67
Rob: Michigan 85-64
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