|Who: No. 11 Michigan (23-12, 10-8 B1G) vs. No. 6 Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7 ACC)|
|Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY|
|When: 9:40 p.m., March 18th, 2016|
|TV: CBS | Streaming|
|Radio: 950 AM, 102.9 FM|
48 hours after knocking off Tulsa in the First Four, Michigan will play Notre Dame (9:40 p.m., CBS) and try to keep its season alive for at least one more game.
The Wolverines have been in this position for a while now, certainly since last week in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Tournament, and slowly but surely they’re starting to embrace it. Michigan hasn’t played a great game in a while, but it hit critical shots down the stretch to beat Northwestern, Indiana and Tulsa.
Now in the 6 vs. 11 game, Michigan will be facing a Notre Dame team that finished tied for 5th in the ACC. The Irish follow a recipe that Michigan fans are well familiar with: one of the best offenses in the country and a defense that’s ranked 172nd nationally — over 50 spots below Michigan.
Notre Dame has quality wins over Duke (road, neutral), Iowa (neutral), North Carolina (home) and Louisville (home), but it also has 11 losses to various top-100 opponents. The Irish are just 4-10 when they scored less than 1.15 points per possession. That’s a very high threshold, one that Michigna has allowed more than just 7 times (1-6), but that Notre Dame has reached 18 times (17-1).
Notre Dame had the best offense in the ACC at 1.15 points per possession and the 10th best offense in the country, according to KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. It’s easy to draw the comparison to Indiana as an offense-first juggernaut, but Notre Dame doesn’t play with the same tempo. The Irish average only 65.8 possessions per game, 318th nationally.
Notre Dame values the basketball, turning it over on just 14.8% of its possessions (11th), and is balanced on the offensive end. A fairly standard 34.5% of the Irish’s shot attempts are threes and they connect at 52.5% inside the arc (37th) and 36.9% outside (68th) for a 53.5 eFG% (40th). Notre Dame is also good on the offensive glass, grabbing 32.8% of its misses (67th) with both starting forwards playing an active role on the offensive glass.
The Irish defense checked in at 12th in the ACC, allowing 1.11 points per trip in conference games. For comparison, Michigan allowed 1.08 points per trip in league play and Rutgers was the only Big Ten team to allow more than 1.09 per trip.
Why is the Notre Dame defense so bad? It doesn’t turn its opponents over (14.8% forced turnover rate), it doesn’t clean up the defensive glass (31.3% offensive rebounding rate allowed) and it doesn’t defend the three (37.6% 3-point shooting percentage allowed. All of those statistics rank 259th or worse in the country. The one thing that Notre Dame does well defensively is avoid giving up free throws, allowing just 26.9 free throw attempts per 100 field goal attempts (14th).
One additional thing that stands out about Notre Dame’s statistical profile is the lack of depth. The Irish give only 21.7% of their minutes to the bench, the 8th fewest in the country. Michigan doesn’t necessarily have the horses to play its bench more minutes and exploit that depth — especially playing its fifth game in 8 days — but it still means that both teams will play a short bench.
Junior point guard Demetrius Jackson has played his way onto the NBA radar. He’s a good setup man, doesn’t turn the ball over, defends and shoots 50% on twos. He’s a career 38% three-point shooter who connected on 43% of his threes last year, but he’s hitting just 32% from deep this season.
Notre Dame has a great pick-and-roll offense and Jackson is the catalyst for that action, which accounts for 27% of Notre Dame’s possessions, per Synergy.
Joining Jackson in the backcourt is 6-foot-5 junior Steve Vasturia. Vasturia is a well-rounded wing guard who plays more minutes than anyone else on the roster, shoots 51% on twos and 36% on threes.
6-foot-10, 245 pound senior Zach Auguste is a mobile big man who plays very well in the ball screen game, but can also crash the glass, block shots and post-up on occasion.
Bonzie Colson is a 6-foot-5, 225 pound sophomore who plays more like a big. He’s a plus-rebounder, he draws fouls, he sets screens in the pick-and-roll game and he’s only attempted 12 threes all season. His frame and style of play a reminiscent of a Jae’Sean Tate in the Big Ten — a physical, undersized guard who just gets after it. Tate gave Michigan fits in Columbus when he posted up Zak Irvin and Michigan’s other wings. Colson loves to work from the right block inward.
Matt Ryan comes off the bench and is a classic stretch big man. He’s only attempted 21 shots inside the arc, but is 45-of-120 from three-point range.
- Ball screen offense: Notre Dame’s pick-and-roll defense grades out very poorly according to Synergy Sports. The Irish pick-and-roll defense grades out in just the 14th percentile nationally. The Irish grade out in just the third-percentile nationally against defending the roll man, which will put the onus on Walton, Irvin and Abdur-Rahkman to find the bigs rolling to the basket early and often.
- Contain Auguste: Auguste seems like a tough match-up for Michigan because he combines several of the elements that give Michigan trouble. He’s capable playing with his back to the basket or rolling the hoop and is agile enough to stretch Donnal or Doyle. He’s also a presence on the offensive glass that the Wolverines will have to contain.
- Walton vs. Jackson: These two matched up at Michigan’s elite camp five years ago and have both had plenty of ups and downs to their careers. Walton’s defense against Jackson will be pivotal, containing him but also staying out of foul trouble, but Michigan will need more of an offensive punch than it has gotten from its point guard of late.
Notre Dame is ranked 39th in the country according to KenPom and Michigan has only lost to one team ranked below the Irish — at Ohio State — with its 11 other losses coming to teams ranked 31st or better. KenPom projects a 73-71 Notre Dame victory, but does give the Wolverines a 45% chance at the upset.