2010-2011 Season

Game 15: Michigan at Wisconsin Preview

Who: Michigan (11-3) at Wisconsin(11-3)
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, WI
When: Wednesday, January 5th, 8:30 PM ET
Radio: MGoBlue / WWWW 102.9 FM

Michigan’s last three games at the Kohl Center have followed an eerily similar script. A painfully slow but tantalizingly neck and neck affair that comes down to a handful of critical possessions in the final minutes. Unfortunately, a majority of those important possessions have been won by the Badgers. Those are the possessions that Wisconsin wins at home and they are the reason that the Badgers have won the last three games (64-61, 60-55, and 54-48) and they are the reason that Wisconsin rarely loses games in the cozy confines of the Kohl Center.

This year’s Wisconsin team features different players but they still resemble what you would expect from a Bo Ryan coached team. They are tough and they execute the swing offense to perfection.  As John Gasaway pointed out, Wisconsin has turned the ball over just 5 times through their first 115 possessions of Big Ten play. It might be obvious to some, but Wisconsin has gradually shifted into a perimeter oriented team over the last five seasons.  It sounds strange that Wisconsin, a team most often associated with big and strong physical play, plays a perimeter oriented offense but the proof lies in the numbers.


Wisconsin has always done a tremendous job taking care of the basketball, a staple of the perimeter oriented team, but they have attempted more three point field goals and fewer free throws over the last five seasons. Michigan is the only Big Ten team that attempts a higher proportion of three pointers than Wisconsin but the Badgers are just 2.6% behind this season. Point guard Jordan Taylor (38%) and big man Jon Leuer (47%) spearhead the Badger three point attack and have attempted just under half of Wisconsin’s three pointers by themselves. That’s not to say other Badgers can’t make you pay from three point range: 6-foot-8 Keaton Nankivil (46%), 6-foot-6 Mike Bruesewitz (37%), and 6-foot-6 Tim Jarmusz (41%) are worthy three point snipers in their own right.

Against Illinois the three point centric strategy cost the Badgers the game as they hit just 4 of 20 threes in the second half. Wisconsin has shot under 31% five times this season and three of those games resulted in losses. Three point defense appeared to be a Michigan strength early on, but opponents are shooting 47% from three point range over the last three games.

Defensively the Badgers are solid if not as spectacular as year’s past. They do a great job defending two point shots, opponents shoot just 41% from inside the arc, but struggle defending the three where opponents are hitting 37%. They are a solid rebounding team on both backboards but haven’t forced many turnovers this season. The good news for Michigan is that Wisconsin has shown vulnerability from three point range, where Michigan expects to attempt around half of their shots. On the other hand, it will be tough for Darius Morris and some of Michigan’s guards to get quality shots in the lane.

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The Darius Morris/Jordan Taylor match-up should be the headliner as Taylor is one of the league’s top point guards and Morris appears to be on his way. Morris’ length should be an advantage versus the 6-foot-1 guard but Michigan should have more concern over defending Jon Leuer. Leuer is an inside-out, rebounding machine that averages 20 points and 7 rebounds per contest and has earned All-American consideration. Michigan’s freshmen big men have faced players like JaJuan Johnson and Keith Benson but they have yet to face a big man like Leuer that can truly stretch the defense to the three point line. Morgan, Horford, Smotrycz, or McLimans – each have individual disadvantages versus Leuer and it will be interesting to watch how Michigan attempts to mask these deficiencies.

On paper, there’s no way to pick Michigan over the bigger, more experienced, and simply better Badgers. Throw in the best home court advantage in the Big Ten and you understand why Pomeroy’s numbers give Wisconsin an 87% chance at victory and picks Wisconsin 62-53 in a 55 possession game.

Three predictions:

  • Jon Leuer gets any shot he wants and goes for 20 & 10 as Michigan can’t seem to stop him inside or out.
  • Someone we don’t expect: Nankivil, Gasser, Bruesewitz or someone even further down the depth chart knocks down 3+ triples and is a surprise double digit scorer.
  • Michigan stays close until around halftime before falling into a lengthy field goal drought that allows Wisconsin to pull away.

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