|Who: Kennesaw State (3-5) at Michigan (5-2)
|Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
|When: 1:00 p.m., December 3rd, 2016
In a similar position to where it found itself last weekend, Michigan will look to bounce back from a deflating mid-week loss with a weekend guarantee game. This weekend, the Wolverines welcome to Kennesaw State Owls to the Crisler Center, a team projected near the bottom of the Atlantic Sun this season.
Kennesaw State is the lowest ranked team that Michigan has played this season to date, per KenPom, and is just 3-5 with wins over Florida A&M, Alabama State and Brewton Parker.
With NJIT nightmares still rattling around in the back of the minds of most of Michigan’s roster (and fans), and on the heels of a disastrous collapse at home, the Wolverines aren’t in a spot to take any game lightly, but the Owls should be a manageable opponent before a critical week ahead with two high-major games.
The one area of the game where Kennesaw State excels is on the glass. The Owls are ranked 52nd nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 64th in defensive rebounding percentage. On the flip side, they aren’t ranked better than 185th in any of the other four factors on either side of the ball. This team isn’t necessarily huge — only one player over 6-foot-8 features heavily in the rotation — but they play a number of guys in the 6-5 to 6-8 range from the 2 through the 5 that can get after it on the glass.
The Owls shoot an above-average 37.5% from three-point range, but on closer examination that number is more a product of just not taking many threes. Only 23.9% of Kennesaw State’s shot attempts are threes, one of the lowest rates in the country, and only two players have made more than three triples this season. Inside the arc, the Owls shoot just 47.7% (208th), they also struggle with turnovers (on 21.6% of possessions) and to get to the free throw line (29.2 FTA/FGA).
On the other side of the ball, there aren’t many positives. Kennesaw State is ranked 291st in eFG% defense, 308th in defensive turnover rate and 307th in defensive foul rate. Teams rarely shoot threes against the Owls (29.7 3PA/FGA), but that appears to be because they don’t need to as they shoot 53.9% inside the arc.
6-foot-2 senior Kendrick Ray is the go-to guy offensively for the Owls, using 30.1% of available possessions. He shoots 48% on twos and 36% on threes while taking twice as many shots inside the arc. Ray also has a little bit of bounce for a 6-foot-2 guard.
After Ray, Nick Masterson is the only other other Kennesaw State player to make more than two threes this season and he’s 21-of-43 from long distance.
6-foot-7, 230 pound senior Aubrey Williams looks to be a load. He shoots an impressive 62% inside the arc, attempts 72 free throws per 100 field goal attempts, and is Kennesaw State’s best offensive and defensive rebounder (ranked in the top-100 in both). Williams started his career at Toledo and drew as many fouls and grabbed as many offensive rebounds as anyone in his conference last season.
6-foot-5 sophomore Kyle Clarke starts at the off guard and appears to be a slasher, but he shoots just 39% from inside the arc and hasn’t made a three-pointer on two attempts.
- KYP: Knowing you personnel takes on a new level of importance when there are only two players on the roster that have made more than three triples this season. Stay out on the shooters and sag off of the non-shooters and this has the makings of a bounce back game for the Wolverine defense.
- Defensive rebounding: The one area where Kennesaw State excels is on the glass. Michigan’s defensive rebounding has been good, not great, this year which means there’s room for improvement and this is probably the only spot where the Wolverines are vulnerable.
- DJ Wilson: DJ Wilson was the key to Michigan’s first four games of the season and he’s been kind of in a slump over the last four games. Michigan needs him to play well for it to reach its potential and this would be a nice bounce back spot for him ahead of next week’s big games.
Michigan should roll in this one, facing an overmatched team without much of a defense. The biggest key might be getting some other guys involved whether it’s a return to early season form for DJ Wilson or extended minutes for any of the three freshmen in the rotation. KenPom projects an 80-57 Michigan win, giving the Wolverines a 98% chance at the victory.