Tomorrow feels like it is an NCAA Tournament game. We have a strange 2pm tipoff. Conveniently, it is also my scheduled half day at work, so I get to be home to watch us kick off our title defense. The games are now going to count double, with only a few layups (Penn State, Iowa) on the slate. That makes for 14 out of 18 games as potential dogfights. Fortunately, everyone else has to look at a similar fate.
Last year’s Big Ten championship felt like winning an epic battle once all was said and done. I remember one reader even posted a post-battle scene from Braveheart after we clinched the title against Penn State. Every game felt like a battle, especially with the casualties of Lewis Jackson and Robbie Hummel for half of our conference games. Well, the conference season is here, so it is time to get ready to defend our title. We need to keep fighting and remember that good things happen when everyone writes us off. People are still coming around on this team, so now is the time to keep that positive momentum going. We might as well go to our own William (JaJuan Johnson) Wallace since we face similar odds:
"Would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day until that, for one chance, JUST ONE CHANCE to come back here, and tell the mainstream media, that they may take our Robbie Hummel, but they'll never take OUR FREEDOM!"
2009-10 Record: 15-17, 7-11
2010-11 Record: 10-2
Postseason Result: None
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 81-61
Last Purdue win: 1/23/10 69-59 in West Lafayette
Last Michigan win: 2/26/09 87-78 in Ann Arbor
Time & TV 2pm on Big Ten Network
|Tim Hardaway Jr||12||26.4||3.8||10.0||37.5||1.7||5.7||29.4||2.6||3.3||77.5||0.9||2.8||3.7||1.4||1.1||0.6||0.1||1.3||11.8|
|Darrick Ervin II||3||1.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.3||0.0|
I didn't expect much from Michigan this season. The loss of DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris, who provided much of their offense last season, both left and there wasn't a lot of proven scoring returning. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris have done very well though. Morris has improved his average by 11 points per game and Hardaway has been a solid freshman. Morris should be an interesting challenge defensively, especially if we choose to put Kelsey Barlow on him.
Dylan from UM Hoops has a great breakdown of Michigan's last game. The Wolverines are a heavily perimeter-oriented team, which could run into trouble since we excel at perimeter defense. They love to shoot the 3-pointer and we are one of the best teams in the country at defending the three. They only hit about a third of their 3-point attempts anyway. If they get hot, we could be in trouble.
It doesn't appear that the Wolverines have an answer for JJ in the post. In fact, JJ should have an advantage against nearly every team int he Big Ten except for Illinois (with Mike Tisdale), Ohio State (with Dallas Lauderdale) and Minnesota (with Ralph Sampson III). Freshman Blake McLimans only plays less than eight minutes per game. Jordan Morgan is their best post player, but he is a freshman, giving JJ a wealth of experience against him. This should be a major advantage we can exploit.
Michigan has enough talent to give us some trouble. This is a young team that is coming together, as evidenced by the way they challenged Syracuse. Winning at Clemson and beating Oakland by 18 are very nice wins for such a young team. Five freshmen see regular time on the floor. This will be their first taste of Big Ten action, but it is also the first time we will have Terone Johnson, Travis Carroll, and Sandi Marcius in a conference game.
It will also be interesting to see how the 2pm tipoff with no students will affect things. We're the more experienced team with the better post game. The wild card is their perimeter shooting. They can always get hot from long range, so it will be a test for our vaunted perimeter defense. This is a team that is just fine with settling for threes. They also do a good job on the offensive glass at better than 10 per game.
In my opinion, Michigan is improved from last year because they only have one questionable non-conference loss (vs. UTEP) as opposed to last year when the dropped games against Alabama, Utah, and Boston College. I'm glad we only play them once and we're opening Big Ten play with them. They will be dangerous as the season goes on. We have to win this game to avoid another slow start in conference play. It is also the type of game that a conference champ should win. We should expect a close game, but I think Purdue's experience wins out in the end.