Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, here we are in the Elite Eight. Today's opponent is the Michigan Wolverines, a team that made it all the way to the NCAA Tournament final game last season, falling to the Louisville Cardinals. With the Cardinals dismissed Friday by the Kentucky Wildcats, it now falls upon us to defend the Commonwealth from the depredations of the Great Lakes State.
Now let's have a look at the Wolverines, shall we?
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: John Beilein (Since 2007)
NCAA Appearances: 25 Most recent
NCAA appearance: 2014
Most recent NCAA win: 2014
Founded: 1817 Enrollment: 26,954
Last season's record: 31-8, 12-6
Source: Basketball State
Season so far for Michigan:
Season record: 28-8, 15-3
The loss of Mitch McGary to a back injury that required surgery ten games into the season will leave us forever wondering what this Michigan team could have looked like with the talented center available. Interestingly, Michigan went on a 10-game winning streak after McGary became unavailable, and lost four games while he was playing. To be fair, all but one of those losses were against top 25 teams.
Michigan has had only one head-scratching loss all season, on a neutral court to Charlotte. They have played a very tough schedule, comparable to Kentucky, but has had a rather easier path to the elite eight than the Wildcats, having defeated Wofford, Texas and Tennessee.
Kentucky and Michigan have not met often over the years, seven times in total including tonight's game, and three of those seven meetings have been in the NCAA tournament at or beyond the regional final. The most recent meeting was back in 1993 when Kentucky lost to Michigan's Fab Five in overtime. I suppose that makes this meeting both ironic and fitting, as the talented Wolverines face Kentucky's version of the Fab Five.
Kentucky leads the series 4-2.
|1||Glenn Robinson III||S**||F||6-6||220||So.||St. John, IN||37||12.9||4.4||1.2|
|10||Derrick Walton Jr.||S||G||6-1||185||Fr.||Harper Woods, MI||37||8.2||3||2.9|
|11||Nik Stauskas||S**||G||6-6||205||So.||Mississauga, Ontario||36||17.3||2.9||3.2|
|23||Caris LeVert||S*||G||6-6||185||So.||Pickerington, OH||37||12.9||4.3||2.9|
|52||Jordan Morgan||S*||F||6-8||250||Sr.||Detroit, MI||37||6.3||5.1||0.6|
|2||Spike Albrecht||MR*||G||5-11||175||So.||Crown Point, IN||37||3.3||1.1||2.1|
|21||Zak Irvin||MR||G||6-6||200||Fr.||Fishers, IN||37||6.7||1.4||0.4|
|15||Jon Horford||MR*||F||6-10||250||Jr.||Grand Ledge, MI||37||3.6||4.1||0.5|
|5||Andrew Dakich||R||G||6-2||185||Fr.||Zionsville, IN||13||0.2||0.4||0.4|
|12||Cole McConnell||R||G||6-5||200||Fr.||Atherton, CA||4||1||0.2||0|
|14||Brad Anlauf||R+||F||6-4||195||So.||Hinsdale, IL||8||0.2||0.2||0.1|
|20||Sean Lonergan||R||F||6-5||195||Fr.||Fishers, IN||12||0.5||0.3||0.1|
|44||Max Bielfeldt||R*||F||6-7||245||So.||Peoria, IL||19||0.8||1.1||0|
|34||Mark Donnal||R-||F||6-9||230||Fr.||Monclova, OH|
|4||Mitch McGary||I*||F||6-10||255||So.||Chesteron, IN||8||9.5||8.2||1.5|
|I||Injured – Out for season|
|+||Redshirt last season|
Source: Basketball State
|Rank and Records||UK||MICH|
|Strength of Schedule||#2||#8|
|RPI Top 50||6-6||11-5|
Michigan Team Notes
Michigan is an outstanding offensive team, but a very average defensive team In fact, their conference performance defensively was significantly below average even for the Big Ten.
The Wolverines shoot almost 56% from the floor on the season, seventh in the nation.
Michigan takes very good care of the basketball, averaging less than 15% turnovers.
The Wolverines are deadly from three. They are 4th in the nation at 40.2% as a team.
Michigan is a very poor offensive rebounding team, but is about average at defensive rebounding.
Three point shots are 35% of the Wolverine's offense.
The Wolverines are one of the least-frequent visitors to the free throw line in Division I. But when they get there, they make them at 76% — tenth best in the nation.
Michigan player notes
Nick Stauskas is a very efficient offensive player with an offensive rating of 124.2 He shoots almost 45% from three. He also commits very few fouls.
Four Wolverine players shoot over 40% from the arc, including Stauskas, LeVert, Walton, and Irvin.
Jordan Morgan is the only player available who rebounds the ball well. He is also extremely efficient, and in fact, leads the team in offensive efficiency.
- Michigan: Mitch McGary out for season with back surgery
- Kentucky: Willie Cauley-Stein out for game with ankle injury
- Derrick Walton vs. Andrew Harrison — Walton is smaller than Andrew, but a good offensive player nonetheless. He is a deadly 3-point shooter in addition to being a good passer. He is, however, much smaller than Andrew, and that will be a problem for him. He is not a particularly good defender, and defending Andrew will be a major challenge for him.
- Nick Stauskas vs. Aaron Harrison — Stauskas is a very tough cover for Aaron, and he is among the most frighteningly deadly shooters in the NCAA anywhere. He has great size at 6'6", much better athleticism than most give him credit for, and is very difficult to guard behind all the screens the Wolverines set for him. He will have trouble guarding Aaron as well, but the zone Michigan plays will hide that.
- Caris LeVert vs. James Young — This is a good matchup. LeVert is one of Michigan's best defenders, and he also shoots the ball very well, making 41% of this threes. He will be a big challenge for Young when Michigan has the ball, but he is not as long as Young and will have trouble with Young defensively.
Glenn Robinson III vs. Julius Randle — The Son of the Big Dog is a tough matchup for Randle on defense. Robinson likes to roam the perimeter and shoot threes, even though he's not been tremendously accurate this season. Randle will be hard pressed to chase him around, and taking Randle away from the basket is never good.
With that said, Robinson cannot guard Randle on defense. The zone will help, but Randle is a real problem for Michigan defensively. The zone will help, but there's no hiding from what the big guy can do.
Jordan Morgan vs. Dakari Johnson — Morgan is quite skilled, quite experienced, and has been a very solid replacement for Mitch McGary. Unfortunately, he is an army of one. Outside of little-used junior John Horford, the Wolverines are very vulnerable in the post against a man-child the size of Johnson.
Keeping Kentucky's bigs of the offensive glass and trying to defend the size of Johnson is going to be an incredibly tough challenge for Morgan. Offensively, Morgan is solid, but not spectacular.
With the loss of WCS, the Wildcats bench gets pretty thin on the front line. Marcus Lee, who has had precious little experience, will be forced into service if Johnson gets into foul trouble. Michigan, on the other hand, is used to playing a six or seven man rotation with McGary out for so long.
This Michigan team depends on great shooting to win games, but they also depend on getting a few turnovers a game. There is a significant correlation to low-turnover teams and losses for the Wolverines, but unfortunately Kentucky does not fall in the low-turnover group.
Fortunately for Kentucky, the few times Michigan has run up against teams that get 38% or more of their own rebounds, they have lost. The Wolverines have played eight games in which opponents have taken 38% or more of the available offensive rebounds, and lost five of them. Offensive rebounding is a significant weakness of this Wolverines team, and if Kentucky does what the statistics say they will do (UK averages 42% offensive rebounds), Michigan is going to be in tough.
But one thing you can't take away from Michigan is how well they shoot, and if the Wolverines are able to do what they did against Tennessee and bury 55% of their three point shots, this game will be a long one for the Wildcats. Tennessee is very similar to Kentucky in how they are able to dominate the glass, but even they are not as good at it as the Wildcats are. Still, Michigan was able to overcome the Vols narrowly on Friday, and that could also be Kentucky's fate if the Wildcats are unable to prevent the Wolverines from making everything.
Both teams can win this game, and without WCS, Michigan's odds are rather better than they would otherwise be — WCS is unique in his ability to intimidate shooting from anywhere on the floor, and that will absolutely be missed by Kentucky. At least one, and possibly several, players must step up and perform if Kentucky is to win wounded.