Michigan welcomes Southern Miss to the Crisler Center tonight (7:00 p.m., BTN-Plus) for its final tune up before the Maui Invitational.
Doc Saddler’s program is still battling NCAA scholarship reductions from the previous regime and only has 10 scholarship players on its 2017-18 roster. The Golden Eagles finished the last three seasons with single digit wins and should have an uphill climb if they want to avoid the bottom spots in Conference USA this season.
Southern Miss only won one non-conference game over a Division I team last year (63-55 over 351st ranked Alabama A&M) and hasn’t faced a Division I team yet this season. The Golden Eagles knocked off Southern New Orleans in their opener by a final score of 79-69.
The Golden Eagles
Southern Miss had the worst offense in the Conference USA and one of the worst in the country last season. The Golden Eagles ranked 300th or worse in three of the four factors: shooting (45 eFG%), offensive rebounding (22.3%), and free throw rate (29.3%). They managed just .95 points per possession in conference play and topped a point per possession offensively in just 10 games. Even in their win over Southern New Orleans this year, they failed to reach a point per possession offensively.
Southern Miss was better on the defense side of the floor last season, but still has a ways to go. The Golden Eagles were a top-50 defensive rebounding, an impressive stat given their lack of size, but one that doesn’t help much against a Michigan program that is content to concede offensive rebounds.
USM doesn’t force many turnovers — finishing last year ranked 290th in defensive turnover rate — and also gives up a lot of three-point attempts. Southern Miss opponents attempted 43% of their shot attempts from three (329th) and they made 37.4% of those attempts (297th). Only 9 teams in the country up a greater percentage of their points allowed from outside the arc last season.
5-foot-10 junior guard Tyree Griffin is the name to know on the Southern Miss roster. Griffin transferred to USM after two years at Oklahoma State and should provide a needed boost in the backcourt. Early signs are that Griffin will play a significant role on this team. He had 21 points on 10 shot attempts, 13 rebounds and five assists in a season-opening win over Southern New Orleans.
Returning starters Cortez Edwards and Kevin Holland both check in a touch above 6-foot and will flank Griffin in the backcourt. Both players shot around 31 or 32% from three last season on under 75 attempts. Edwards is the more aggressive scorer and passer and has the ability to get to the basket. He should be the more difficult cover for the Wolverines.
Grand Canyon transfer Dominic Magee is another scoring threat off the bench who reached double figures in the opener. He’s expected to a slashing scorer who can get to the basket.
The Southern Miss roster has just two players above 6-foot-7 and two players listed above 220 pounds.
Tim Rowe will start at the center after missing most of last season with an injury. He made 3-of-7 threes in 6 games last year, so he could be a mild threat to stretch the floor. His backup is 6-foot-7, 248 pound big man Eddie Davis. Davis also stretches the floor (34% of his shot attempts are threes) and is a prescene on the offensive glass.
- Half Court Offense: Southern Miss played 100% man-to-man in its season opener and played man defense on 90% of its possessions a season ago. This should be the first chance that we get to see Michigan’s man-to-man half court offense in action. That means ball screens, two-guard sets, pin downs, the whole gamut of things that have been left on the clipboard for a week. We know Michigan’s zone offense hasn’t been great, but how does the man-to-man look?
- Zavier Simpson vs. Tyree Griffin: We’ve spent a lot of time discussing Zavier Simpson’s defense, but this might be his first real head-to-head battle with a quick and dynamic guard. Simpson has the tools and has been disruptive defensively, but it will be good to see him try to slow down Griffin, who looked excellent in the opener as a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
- Make threes: Southern Miss gives up the three-point shot and Michigan takes the three-point shot. The Wolverines have some great shooters and some shooters that still need to prove themselves, this will be a good opportunity in the early season to start to heat up from long distance after an inconsistent start.
- Leave on the right foot: It might be a good thing that Michigan had to face a challenge against Central Michigan, but it would also be nice to put together a more complete performance before leaving for Maui. Charles Matthews, Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Moritz Wagner have all their moments, but they’ve never looked completely comfortable either. Getting a couple guys on track with an all-around game could be a nice benefit before heading to Maui next week.
KenPom projects a 78-57 Michigan win and this looks like a match-up that should provide fewer speed bumps than Michigan’s first two contests.