2019-20 Season

In Iowa, a test for Juwan Howard’s defensive philosophy

By now, you’ve heard some variant of the stat. Opposing big men in the Big Ten are averaging 29.8 points against Michigan and pulling down 11.2 boards. On Sunday afternoon, Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu hung 30 on the Wolverines and they filed out of Williams Arena with a loss, below .500 in Big Ten play. On Friday, they’ll see Iowa’s Luka Garza again, six weeks after the Iowa center scored 44 in a loss at Crisler Center.

It’s a deliberate strategy on the part of Juwan Howard. Refuse to double the post. Prevent 3-pointers. Stay out of rotation. As far as limiting what Howard wants to limit, it’s working. Michigan is third in the country in limiting assisted field goals and third in limiting 3-point attempts, per KenPom. It’s the shot profile of a team better than 40th in the country in defensive efficiency.

“That’s something that we want to take away,” walk-on CJ Baird said Thursday. “We can handle the tough two, the tough jump hook, and obviously there are some really good, as you said, Big Ten bigs. And we trust Jon (Teske) to do the best that he can and really stop those guys.”

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