Preview: #8 Michigan Basketball vs. Northwestern. Michigan must impress the selection committee in the Big Ten Tournament, but Northwestern and its Wolverine killer are in the way. The Basics. Who: Northwestern Wildcats (2. Big Ten)When: Thursday, March 1. Noon ET (BTN)Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse - - Indianapolis, Ind. Spread: Vegas: TBA | Ken. Pom: W, 6. 8- 6. 6 (5.
WP)The Stage. Michigan must fight for its NCAA Tournament life in the Big Ten Tournament, and it'll be much fiercer than one would have believed three weeks ago. In that time, Michigan blew four chances to add a fourth quality win, losing at Ohio State, at Maryland, at Wisconsin, and vs. Iowa. As a result, the Wolverines have fallen out of the NCAA Tournament, with most brackets slotting them in the "First Four Out." Michigan probably needs two wins this week to break back into the field because the second win would be against Indiana and of quality. And there is a slight chance that the selection committee could choose the Wolverines even if they win just once, favoring their three RPI top- 2. But, if Michigan drops this first Big Ten Tournament game, the NIT will be a guarantee for the Maize and Blue. The Opponent. Northwestern enters the Big Ten Tournament with a three- game winning streak, but it's nothing to brag about.
Those three wins were against Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska. In fact, of the Wildcats' eight conference wins, only one came against a Big Ten team that is ahead of them in the standings - - Wisconsin before Greg Gard sold his soul to Satan for another top- four Big Ten finish. Northwestern isn't a terrible team by any means - - #7. Ken. Pom - - but it isn't a team that has performed well against quality competition. Offensively, Northwestern is 8. The Wildcats are proficient from the field (5. FG%), making 5. 2.
PA%). They also are very skilled with the basketball, registering lots of assists (1. TO%). However, Northwestern is just so- so on the offensive glass (1. OR%), and the free- throw line gives the Wildcats nightmares. They're 3. 38th in free- throw rate and 3. Defensively, Northwestern is 8. The zone permits offenses to swing the ball freely (3.
TO%) and find many open shots from behind the three- point line (2. PA%, 1. 49th in 3. P%). However, the Wildcats sacrifice this to protect the paint (2. P%, 8. 5th in blk%) - - though they can be too handsy at times (1. FTR) - - and grab a solid number of defensive rebounds (1.
DR%). But there is the chance that Northwestern abandons its matchup zone for a traditional man- to- man defense. Northwestern did it in the first meeting against Michigan and could do it again. The Personnel. The Maize and Blue faithful hoped that its favorite team would never face seven- foot senior center Alex Olah again, but the Michigan murderer will get one last round against the Wolverines. Olah has averaged 1. PPG and 5. 3 RPG this season - - one that was disrupted by a foot injury - - but, in his last three games against Michigan, he's tallied 2.
PPG with a 6. 3. 8 e. FG% and 8. 0 RPG. Northwestern will feed Olah on the block, where he uses his big body to bury defenders deep and flashes a wonderful touch (5. P%). He also has little issue knocking down mid- range jumpers, though he sometimes becomes overzealous and tries his luck from three (2.
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P%). On the other end, Olah is a fantastic defensive rebounder (1. DR%) and anchors Northwestern's matchup zone (7. For teams not named Michigan, Northwestern's two biggest threats lie in the backcourt: 6- foot- 3 sophomore point guard Bryant Mc.
Intosh and 6- foot- 3 senior shooting guard Tre Demps. Mc. Intosh is the team's second- leading scorer (1. PPG) and typically a reliable jump shooter (3. P%), but he had a tougher time finding his rhythm against his Big Ten brethren (4. FG% in B1. G play). Nonetheless, Mc. Intosh's best skill isn't his shooting but his passing.
He owns one of the best assist rates in the country (3. Northwestern's offense.
As for Demps, there aren't many players that love to shoot more than he does, which is why he leads the Wildcats in scoring (1. PPG). He doesn't have the best shooting percentages (4. P%, 3. 2. 5 3. P%), but he is very streaky. On any given night, he can torch an opposing defense from deep. Six- foot- 6 junior wing Sanjay Lumpkin and 6- foot- 8 freshman forward Aaron Falzon round out the starting lineup. Lumpkin rarely scores (3. PPG) because he usually plays about half the game (2.
MPG) and isn't very involved in the offense when he is in (1. When he does shoot, he's pretty efficient (1. ORtg) because he only slashes to the bucket for layups (5. P%) or connects on threes (3.
P%). Nonetheless, Lumpkin will make more of a mark on the boards (7. OR%, 1. 7. 2 DR%).
On the other hand, Falzon will make more of an offensive impact. He averages 8. 7 PPG, and most of it comes from downtown (7. PA%, 3. 6. 0 3. P%). Michigan witnessed this firsthand when Falzon poured in 1. Ann Arbor earlier this season. Mc. Intosh and Demps essentially play the entire game, so the three Northwestern reserves that see the most time rotate into the front court.
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Six- foot- 5 sophomore wing Scottie Lindsey is a dependable jump shooter (4. P%) that doesn't bring much else to the table. The big men, 6- foot- 8 sophomore forward Gavin Skelly and 6- foot- 8 freshman center Dererk Pardon, can be tough loads to handle inside. Both score well around the rim, both know how to earn their way to the line, both are excellent rebounders, both can send opponents' shots in the other direction, and both have a bad habit of fouling. The key differences are that Skelly hits the rare three and is very sloppy with the basketball.
The Keys. No- lah: Alex Olah looks like an NBA center when he steps on the court against Michigan. The Wolverines still have beaten him notwithstanding, but that doesn't mean they should continue to let it happen.
Michigan needs to make Olah work for his points tomorrow. Prevent the entry pass into the post. Push him out of the paint and force him to make jumpers. Don't let him set up shop around the rim.
It's not an easy task, but it's one Michigan must do tomorrow. And it's a task that Mark Donnal can do adequately. Tickle the Twine from Three: Michigan overcame its early deficit against Northwestern to win the first meeting because Muhammad- Ali Abdur- Rahkman (1. Derrick Walton (1. One reason for this was that Northwestern surprised Michigan with a man defense, which extended out on shooters more than the matchup zone. The other was that Wolverines not named Aubrey Dawkins could not buy a triple (1- of- 1.
P). Whether Northwestern sticks with its man or reverts back to its matchup zone, the Wolverines can't go that cold from behind the arc again. Play with Passion: The last few weeks have been dispiriting for Michigan. The Wolverines had multiple chances to punch their NCAA Tournament ticket and let all of them slip away. Now, they are outside the bubble looking in and know it. They can let that get the best of them and go out with a whimper on Thursday. Or they can put the disappointment behind them and play with fire, knowing that the season isn't over yet. The Prediction. Michigan 7.
Northwestern 6. 7.