Home court cures all. In this conference defending your home court regardless of opponent is imperative. For example: If we beat Wisconsin, we're tied for first place in the Big Ten right now. We can't get that game back, but tonight we face the Michigan Wolverines with a chance to get a much needed quality win.
As noted in yesterday's non-conference update, we're 3-4 against the RPI top 50. That changed slightly this morning as Minnesota is now into the top 50 (giving us an all-important true road win against a top 50 foe), but Iona fell to 52 after blowing a double-digit second half lead and losing to Siena. They're now 52, and probably need to go unbeaten the rest of the way to have any chance at an at large bid.
But tonight is all about Michigan. They are No. 28 in the RPI, No. 20/22 in the polls, and they are another team coming in off of a loss. This is a team that can make a comeback, as they trailed by 20 at Arkansas on Sunday. They came back to lose by only two. Iowa and Indiana have gotten them in league play, making them 0-2 on the road but 5-0 at home. Duke and Virginia also got them in the non-conference.
2010-11 Record: 21-14-9-9 Big Ten (Lost to Duke 73-71 in NCAA Tournament Round 2)
2011-12 Record: 15-5, 5-2 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 82-61
Last Purdue win: 12/28/10 80-57 in Ann Arbor
Last Michigan win: 2/26/09 87-78 in Ann Arbor
Time & TV 7pm on ESPN
|Tim Hardaway Jr||20||33.1||5.2||12.3||42.4||1.6||5.7||27.4||3.1||4.2||73.8||0.7||3.0||3.6||2.5||1.7||0.5||0.2||2.1||15.1|
Because of a weird quirk in the scheduling we did not play Michigan during the 2011 calendar year. We only played them once last season, on December 28th to kick off the Big Ten in Ann Arbor with a 23 point win. 25 Big Ten games later they come back on the schedule. It just seems odd that we have played Michigan State and Iowa four times each since the last time we played Michigan.
This is a hard team to figure out too. Their record at home is spotless. Away from Ann Arbor they are only 3-5, with two wins coming in Maui and the third coming at Oakland. They've also had to survive Northwestern and Michigan State in their last two home games, so it is not like they are ripping of heads to assert dominance or anything.
One stat that sticks out to me is rebounding. Michigan State is one of the best rebounding teams in the country and we were able to hold our own (partially because they couldn't miss). Michigan is 258th nationally in rebounding at 33.1 per game. Evan Smotrycz is their leading rebounder at 5.9 per game with Jordan Morgan next at 5.6.
The two main scorers are Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.1 ppg) and Trey Burke (14.6 ppg). Burke is the leading candidate to usurp Cody Zeller as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and if he stays, he will likely dominate this league. He averages almost five assists per game. He hits 34% of his three pointers and shoots 43.6% from the field.
Burke's ability to run the point allows Hardaway to be more creative and get to the basket. Hardaway only shoots 27% from long range, but he is adept at driving and getting to the line. As a whole, Michigan hits its free throws at a 70% clip, and they shoot fairly well from the field at 46%. Their three-point shooting isn't great at 34.3%, but Zach Novak and Smotrycz will be the leading nominees for the Billy Oliver Memorial Award For Unguarded White Forwards We Leave Open For Seven Threes (going forward, the BOMAFUWFWLOFST). they shoot better than 40% from long range. As always, never leave the white guy open behind the arc.
Michigan is a team contending for the Big Ten because they have a nice core of savvy veterans in a year where many teams in the conference lost a ton of upper class leadership. Guys like Stu Douglass, Matt Vogrich, and Novak have been around for awhile.
In a way, our success next season banks a lot on D.J. Byrd, John Hart, and Kelsey Barlow playing similar roles next year. They will be our seniors in 2012-13, but much of the attention will be on the incoming freshmen. Douglass, Novak, and Vogrich aren't their leading scorers in favor of younger guys like Hardaway and Burke, but they play critical support roles. Next year we may see Ronnie Johnson and Raphael Davis become primary scorers with Jay Simpson and A.J. Hammons trying to assert themselves inside. We'll still need Byrd doing good Byrd things (like he was earlier in the Big Ten season), Barlow to attack, and Hart to hit some big baskets.
One thing I would like to see us do is make an effort to get Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll involved more offensively. Carroll lately has been doing an excellent job of rotating to the basket off of screens, but we're not finding him for open look. Marcius has been establishing his position as well, but aside from a few random moments, they aren't getting the ball on offense less than 20 feet from the basket. If Carroll is rotating open off the screen, hit him with the pass until the defense respects it.
Of course, the one thing I haven't addressed yet is the abysmal shooting from the Michigan State game. Let's face it: aside from Barlow, Lewis Jackson, and Terone Johnson, we're a jump shooting team. If they are falling, we look good. If Robbie Hummel is 0 for 926,012,965 (approximate) we're not going to look good. Rob looked awful on Saturday and dejected as a whole.
Saturday was the first time I saw Rob actually look bitter about his injuries. I am hoping that an energized crowd today rejuvenates him because we haven't seen a Rob the Conqueror type of performance yet this year. His shot needs to start falling to the point where the bowing in adoration is accompanied by shouts of "EL CONQUISTIDOR!".
Tonight our defensive effort has to be focused on everyone. With six players averaging between seven and 15 points they can score from just about anywhere. Outside of Jon Horford they don't have a massive size edge, so it comes down to effort on the glass, solid defense, and hitting our own shots. We had those in the first 15 minutes against Michigan State, but it all fell apart because we couldn't shoot. If we keep up that effort and find our shooting touch again we can pull off the upset tonight.