Who: Michigan (11-11, 4-6) vs. Wisconsin(17-5, 7-3)
Wisconsin’s consistent success in the Big Ten is tough to explain. Luckily, KJ hit the nail on the head in his MSU/Wisconsin preview earlier this week:
Take a team that went 10-8 in Big Ten play in 2009, subtract the team’s leading scorer and leading rebounder (two different guys), add two freshman role players playing a combined 21.1 minutes per game, and you get . . . a team that starts the season 13-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play
Now go ahead and knock the team’s new star out with an injury–a guy who had emerged as the team’s second leading scorer, top rebounder, and a legitimate contender for the conference player of the year. Now, of course, you have . . . a team that still managed to win 3 of 5 games to find itself in a second-place tie in the Big Ten standings. [ed: Now 4 of 6]
My point? The Wisconsin basketball team, as coached by Bo Ryan, defies rational analysis. But we’ll give it a shot anyways.
In an era of sports that is dominated by super stars and glamour, Bo Ryan defies logic and keeps on winning games; that includes all 5 match-ups with Michigan head coach John Beilein. Beilein will look to finally knock off Wisconsin as he attempts to right the ship in Ann Arbor.
Michigan led the first match-up for 35+ minutes before crumbling down the stretch while Trevon Hughes and Rob Wilson took over. Michigan proved to themselves that they can play with the Badgers, who shot terribly in the first match-up, but nobody knows what sort of effort you will get from Michigan on any given night.
All things considered, this feels like one of those games where Michigan will come to play and remind us that they are actually capable of putting a good game together. It’s against a big name opponent, at home, on a Saturday afternoon, and on national television. Then again, if there is one thing that this team has taught us, it’s don’t assume anything.
Michigan is 1-4 since they knocked off UConn two weeks ago. Some of the games have been close but 1-4 is not good, no matter how you spin it. So why is Michigan struggling? Here are the two biggest reasons in my book:
- Manny Harris is going through one of the worst stretches in his Michigan career. He not only missed one game due to suspension but he has played very poorly in the other four. He is shooting 33% from the field (19 of 57) in his last four games and averaging more than 3 turnovers per contest.
- Shooting. Michigan’s shooting numbers over the last five games are absolutely terrible. FG%: 36.6%, eFG%: 43.2%,2PFG%: 42.5%, 3pFG%: 29.4%. It’s really hard to win games when you shoot that poorly.
A game versus Wisconsin is unlikely to cure either of these problems. Manny Harris has traditionally struggled against the Badgers and the last time out Tim Jarmusz held Manny to 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting with 3 turnovers. Wisconsin also has one of the best defenses in the country (6th in KenPom adjusted efficiency). They hold their opponents to 43.5% 2point shooting and 45.2% eFG shooting overall.
For more on Wisconsin and their personnel, check out my preview of the last game (which was less than two weeks ago). Trevon Hughes is the guy that makes Wisconsin go and after that it’s a crap shoot as to who shoulders the load on any given day. Keaton Nankivil hit 7 of 8 triples at Purdue after making only 1 of 7 versus Michigan. Jordan Taylor, Jason Bohanon, and Rob Wilson have also all notched double digit performance since Leuer’s injury.
Each player in the Badger’s lineup is just barely dangerous enough that you can’t forget about them on the defensive end. To have a chance in this one, Michigan will have to match Wisconsin’s defensive intensity from start to finish. Because Nankivil is the only player in the Wisconsin rotation over 6-foot-6, DeShawn Sims should be called upon early and often. His 23 point (9 of 14 shooting) 13 rebound performance in Madison was the only reason Michigan had a chance to win.
After that it comes down to anyone else hitting shots. That hasn’t happened much this year so it’s tough to predict anything but a Wisconsin win. Pomeroy likes Wisconsin, 58-53, and gives Michigan only a 26% chance at the win on their home floor. I’ll take Wisconsin 64, Michigan 54. Let’s hear your predictions in the comments.