|Who: Rutgers (10-20, 2-15 B1G) at Michigan (14-15, 7-10 B1G)|
|Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)|
|When: 2:15 p.m., March 7th, 2015|
|Radio: 950 AM, 1050AM|
Michigan’s season hasn’t gone how anyone planned, but it will have a chance to end the regular season on a positive note at home on Saturday afternoon.
The Wolverines will host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the same team they beat on the road a month and a half ago in their first game without Caris LeVert. Michigan has only won two other games since then, losing eight, but there’s little doubt that the Michigan players left in the rotation have grown up quickly over the last 10 games.
Rutgers travels to Ann Arbor in the midst of a 13 game losing streak and hasn’t been able to find the win column since upsetting Wisconsin in January. The Scarlet Knights’ four point loss to Michigan was as close as they’ve come to a Big Ten victory during the losing streak.
The Scarlet Knights
Rutgers has the league’s worst offense, scoring just .88 points per possession, and only Indiana and Northwestern have allowed more points per possession (1.07).
The Scarlet Knights are also the worst shooting team in the Big Ten — 41.4% on twos, 28.9% on threes — and give the ball away on a league worst 20.4% of their offensive possessions. The Rutgers team shot chart is filled with about as much blue (below average) as you would expect.
Rutgers has scored over a point per possession just three times over the last 13 games and Michigan played its second best defensive game of the Big Ten season at Rutgers earlier this year.
Rutgers has the second-worst interior defense in the Big Ten. Scarlet Knight opponents are shooting 52.2% on twos (13th) and 34.5% on threes (8th) for a 52 eFG% (12th). Rutgers is ranked 9th in the league in defensive rebounding, 9th in the league in free throw rate allowed and 8th in the league in forced turnovers. The only defensive stat that Rutgers ranks in the top-half of the Big Ten is the one it has no control over, free throw defense.
5-foot-10 point guard Myles Mack is Rutgers’ most-efficient offensive player. He’s shooting 41% on twos and 34% on threes – the only Rutgers player with more than 11 3-pointers in Big Ten play – and also touts the fifth-best assist rate in the conference. Mack is streaky from the wings, but will be one of the quickest players on the floor on Saturday afternoon.
This will be Kadeem Jack’s last regular season college game and his senior season was a major step-back statistically. The 6-foot-9, 235 pound senior is shooting 45% on twos and 25% on threes in Big Ten play, struggles with turnovers and has an offensive rating of just 83.5. Jack is a good finisher and rebounder around the rim, but has the tendency to float and take mid-range jumpers offensively, a habit that Michigan should encourage.
Bishop Daniels shares backcourt duties with Mack and is the third of three high-usage players in the Rutgers offense. He’s shooting just 39% on twos and 31% on threes (23% of attempts). The 6-foot-3 junior is also an above-average defender who does a good job of getting to the line.
Junior Etou mans the wing position and is Rutgers’ best offensive rebounder. While he does a great job of getting to the free throw line (49 FTA per 100 FGA), he’s shooting just 35% on twos and 28% on threes.
Greg Lewis provides some offensive rebounding and shot blocking down low and the 6-foot-9, 245 junior shoots a team-best 51% on twos.
- Defending Mack: Myles Mack is primary perimeter threat for the Scarlet Knights and the one player that has the ability to take over a game. Expect Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman to be tasked with stopping Mack, in yet another difficult defensive matchup for the freshman guard.
- Minutes for Kam Chatman: Chatman only played five minutes, a season low, in a double overtime game at Northwestern on Tuesday. That was a step back from a couple of strong performances over the last several games, but it will be important for Michigan to play Chatman more minutes not only on Saturday but next week in the Big Ten Tournament where there’s the possibility of playing back-to-back games.
- Pack it in: The game at Rutgers was one of the first times we saw this team play extended minutes of the 2-3 zone and there aren’t many better teams in the league to zone than this Rutgers team – given its woeful shooting numbers.
For the first time in what seems like weeks, KenPom gives Michigan an 86% chance at finishing the regular season with a victory, projecting a 64-54 final score in a 60 possession game.
A note on Big Ten Tournament Seeding: Michigan should be the No. 9 seed (noon game on Thursday against Illinois or Indiana) in the Big Ten Tournament unless it loses to Rutgers, Northwestern beats Iowa and Wisconsin beats Ohio State. In that case, the Wolverines will fall to the No. 10 seed.