Michigan Basketball (18-6, 10-2) will host Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5) on Sunday afternoon at Crisler Center. Tip is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be televised on CBS. Let’s take a look at who has the edge in this heavyweight matchup:
The Michigan basketball team, under coach Beilein, prefers to score in volume from around the perimeter and in transition. Big men often come out to the three point line and set up the offense with a pass or a screen. Rarely do Jon Horford or Jordan Morgan post up and score unless it is after an offensive board (Horford averages 5 points per game while Morgan averages just 4.9).
They do, however, play a pivotal role in the success of the offense, just not in terms of points. Defensively, it is dependent on what scheme Beilein is running but Horford appears to be the more reliable option as he records more rebounds and blocks per game while averaging fewer minutes than Morgan. Rebounding is something that has hurt the Wolverines all year as opponents have found ways to get second chance points often due to Michigan’s inability to solidify the issue.
Wisconsin runs a more traditional-style offense in which the front court plays a large role in scoring as well as setting up the offense passing inside out if nothing is there for them. Their two starting big men, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, average 12.5 and 13.4 points per game, respectively. They also show an ability to stretch the floor as the pair shoots about 6 threes a game at a .367 rate. Defensively, Dekker and Kaminsky average 2.1 blocks and 12 rebounds per game as a pair.
By playing two big men together as opposed to Michigan’s emphasis on shooting, ball, movement, and athleticism; Wisconsin has the edge as they can outrebound and outscore the Wolverines from the post.
Michigan not only has the better backcourt in this game, it has one of the better backcourts in all of the country. Nik Stauskas seems to be quietly rounding into form after cooling off following his unbelievable start to 2013-14. Derrick Walton Jr. is not so quietly becoming more comfortable and confident in his role as the point guard in Beilein’s offense, recording a double-double Tuesday in Columbus. Zak Irvin provides excellent minutes off the bench and consistent shooting. Caris LeVert has become a reliable rebounder and although his shot selection and inconsistency can drive Michigan fans mad, he is a somewhat reliable scorer who often provides a big play when needed. Glenn Robinson III can be the most lethal scorer on the court when he wants to be as his strength and athleticism will allow him to get to the hole and score and/or be fouled nearly every time. However, he often settles for jump shots which come and go in his game. Either way, he is an extremely talented scorer and his athleticism allow him to grab a lot of rebounds that would otherwise be an offensive board for the opposition.
Wisconsin’s backcourt is effective but in different ways than Michigan’s. Their point guard, Traevon Jackson, is not the Yogi Ferrell type that will go 7-8 from 3 and cause you to smash your Wolverine pillow-pet against the wall. He plays the role of a distributor mostly, averaging 3.9 assists per game while shooting .411 from the field on the season.
They do have a true shooter though, in Ben Brust, a name no Wolverines fan will soon forget after the half court buzzer beater that led to a heartbreaking loss for the Wolverines a season ago. Josh Gasser is the final backcourt shooter and he is actually having a better year statistically than Brust, so watch out for him or we could have a repeat of the Iowa game where it rained 3’s.
Prediction: Michigan wins 74-65 in front of a raucous, sold out Crisler.
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