Riding the momentum of a 5-game winning streak, to the tune of a still perfect Big Ten record, the Michigan Basketball team will host Penn State Tuesday night in an attempt to maximize morale before facing a tough Wisconsin team on the road this weekend. Fresh off a 1-point road victory against Nebraska, the Wolverines are eager to stay hot and continue their Big Ten faultlessness.
Tonight’s matchup features a number of themes worth monitoring:
1. Is this the new Glenn Robinson III or will he revert back to what we’re used to?
After missing the majority of the second half against Minnesota, GR3 has stormed to two consecutive double-figure scoring performances against Northwestern and Nebraska. Moreover, Robinson has converted an impressive 62% from the field during these two matchups, and effectively led the Wolverines in both victories.
“I’m just trying to have fun out there,” said Robinson “I think that’s when I tend to play my best basketball –when I’m angry or when I’m just having fun”.
The sophomore forward will be forced to take on a much bigger role with Mitch McGary out indefinitely, and his embracing of this new role will be integral in Michigan’s season outcome.
2. Michigan needs a blowout
Along with Nebraska, Michigan is tied for the fewest home games of any Big Ten team. And against a Penn State team that has lost it’s last four games en route to an 0-4 start in Big Ten play, the Wolverines could use a convincing victory to bolster momentum going into Saturday’s showdown in Madison. The Nittany Lions are a team defined by strong backcourt play, but porous defense, to say the least. Guards D.J. Newbill and Tim Frazier account for almost half of PSU’s offense, but this offensive prowess evidently does not translate to defense, as Penn State yields a Big Ten worst 73.7 points per game. This trend is ideal for a Michigan team known for forking up a multitude of shots, specifically for sharpshooters like Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert.
3. Walton Jr. and Irvin: A Tale of Two Freshmen
Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin have assumed very different roles thus far for the Wolverines. While Walton has developed nicely into the starting point guard slot, Irvin has hobbled along behind the likes of Robinson III, Stauskas and LeVert, occasionally displaying deadly shooting ability or downright explosive potential. In Michigan’s current situation, everything centers around the absence of Mitch McGary, especially heading into Big Ten play composed of frontcourt titans such as Amir Williams and Adreian Payne. While Irvin has shown his personal inclination toward wing play, as opposed to the post, a gradual progression toward the frontcourt could prove useful for Irvin, who sees his minutes dwindling, especially in the response to GR3’s recent success.
Michigan tips off against Penn State Tuesday night at 8 PM in the Crisler Center, the only meeting this season between the two teams. Michigan leads the all-time series 29-12 including a 17-2 record in Ann Arbor.