|WHAT|| #17 Michigan (15-4) vs
#41 Maryland (14-5)
|WHERE|| Crisler Arena
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||6:30 PM ET, Monday|
|LINE|| Michigan –7 (KenPom)
Michigan –8 (Vegas)
please Kevin, don't Huerter them
Michigan is coming off a very satisfying win at Michigan State that flung them into the top 20 of the big ranking systems and now faces a trio of should-win-could-lose games before their rematch with the Boilermakers at Mackey on January 25th. Maryland, which is Chicago's Big Ten Bubble Team, is first up.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||1||Anthony Cowan||So.||6'0, 170||88||23||118||No|
|Scoring PG must be kept off the line. 121 FTs already this year, hitting 86%. Let him shoot from two.|
|G||10||Darryl Morsell||Fr.||6'4, 205||63||22||94||Very|
|Burly guard can't shoot, gets to the line pretty well, too many turnovers, OREB threat.|
|F||4||Kevin Huerter||So.||6'7, 190||82||20||120||Not at all|
|Ideal Beilein wing escaped M's clutches. Not Just A Shooter hitting 46% from deep.|
|F||23||Bruno Fernando||Fr.||6'10, 245||55||28||109||Very|
|Freshman post playing a lot of PF by necessity. Good rebounder at both ends, top 100 block rate, effective on the block.|
|C||15||Michal Cekovsky||Sr.||7'1, 250||39||19||118||Very|
|Little used senior forced into more prominent role. Decent block rate, 70% from two but TO prone.|
|F||18||Jared Nickens||Sr.||6'7, 205||33||14||113||No|
|Just a shooter. 53 threes attempted; 13 twos.|
|F||5||Dion Wiley||Jr.||6'4, 210||44||13||108||No|
|Also just a shooter. 58 threes, 17 twos. Missed OSU game with concussion, availability questionable.|
|F||33||Joshua Tomaic||So.||6'9, 220||14||16||119||Very|
|Stretch four sort has been super efficient in limited time probably against tomato cans.|
YMMV on who the fifth starter is between Nickens and Fernando.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Maryland is the last team in the Big Ten that does not know its NCAA tourney fate within a 95% confidence level. At 14-5 with one quality win, that against Butler at home, it's going to be a major uphill battle for them. A road game against a Michigan team on short rest—Michigan played Saturday, Maryland hasn't played since Thursday—therefore represents a huge opportunity for the Terrapins to bolster their resume. Expect these gentlemen to go hard.
Alex offers up his thoughts after a few viewings of the Terrapins this season:
Maryland's played each of the other three actually good Big Ten teams: they barely lost to Purdue at home back in December, and - after losing Justin Jackson for the season - lost to OSU and MSU on the road by a combined 52 points. The quick turnaround for Michigan makes me a little nervous, but I'd be way more concerned if this game was in College Park.
Jackson was a big loss; his numbers were way down this season, but that was probably due to his messed-up shoulder, and he's a first-round type athlete at the 3/4 positions - like Miles Bridges, he would have been one of a few on the schedule that could more than match up with Matthews in terms of their physical profiles. They also have other injuries: rotation center Ivan Bender busted his knee, and veteran #shooter Dion Wiley has been out with a concussion. This is a Maryland team down three contributors total - Jackson isn't the only injury (though the most impactful, sure).
There are really just three guys that I'll be focused on. Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, Bruno Fernando.
Cowan: he's a smaller point guard, and the Melo Trimble comparisons he receives are more or less accurate. He gets to the line a ton, attacking the basket with strength, snapping his head back on contact, and throwing the ball towards the rim on contact with bigger players. If Simpson can keep him out of the lane, Maryland's offense will suffer a lot. Cowan shoots threes well, and off the dribble, but his biggest value comes when he's getting downhill and collapsing the defense, distributing, and getting to the foul line.
Huerter: Michigan's three-point defense will face a test unlike any it's seen so far this season, as Huerter has embraced the "shoot from well behind the arc" strategy that's gradually gained popularity in the NBA, and he shoots effectively from well beyond the arc. He's a good passer, and he has good size for his position, but shooting is the biggest thing. If Michigan (and probably MAAR, mostly) is able to limit his 3PA and prevent him from getting hot and canning a few threes in a four-minute window, it will go a long ways towards an impressive PPP allowed number towards the end of the game. Jared Nickens can also shoot - he'll play a lot without Wiley - and he made four threes in Ann Arbor last season, but Huerter is the danger here.
Fernando: Maryland's center position is unsettled, but Fernando is a rising star in the Big Ten. Only a freshman, he's a great rebounder, protects the rim, and scores efficiently, mostly around the rim on looks set up by others - namely Cowan and Huerter. Veteran big man Michal Cekovsky hasn't really ever improved throughout his career, but they split time (and journeyman Sean Obi plays reserve minutes) - Michigan won't see both at the same time much—per Kenpom they get about 8 minutes a game together.
Fernando could be one of the better players in the league by the end of his career, but I like this matchup for Michigan: Wagner will give him a lot of problems on the defensive end, and Teske will be the rare big that has the height and bulk to negate his advantages as a physical presence inside. If Fernando struggles, Michigan will be in great shape.
I watched Maryland take down LaVall Jordan and a legitimately good Butler team back in November, but I haven't seen the same team since. Unless Cowan or Huerter has a huge night - and assuming Michigan doesn't have a hangover after the big win and quick turnaround - this should be a game that the Wolverines win.
In addition to the three guys mentioned above, Maryland has four or five other contributors. Most, if not all, are extremely one dimensional. Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley are Just Shooters; combined they have 30 two point attempts on the year and 111 threes. Each hits at a 40% clip. Neither offers much in the way of defensive stats.
Darryl Morsell is the opposite kind of one-dimensional guy: a get-to-the-rim bull who can't shoot. His game is extremely dependent on getting to the line: his eFG% is 41, but his True Shooting %—which includes free throws—is 48%. Cowan has a similarly large gap; amongst Maryland shot creators only Huerter remains effective when kept off the line. Whoever's checking Morsell will have to be aware of him on the offensive boards; he is a putback threat.
Finally, center Michal Cekovsky is super efficient when he gets a shot off, largely because almost all of his shots are 1) assisted and 2) at the rim. He's the guy who benefits from Cowan and Huerter's ability to force defensive rotation. He's a middling rebounder.
Finally, sophomore stretch four Joshua Tomaic has been emerging over the past few games. He's got all of 18 shots on the season, but they're going in so far. He got 20+ minutes against OSU and did well with that time; he could be a surprise thorn in Michigan's side... or he could be a ghost.
Maryland's stats are blah overall but have some fascinating extremities when you drill down. They are a nondescript 40th on offense and 61st on defense, but the individual components are wild:
- Maryland is 293st in turnover rate and 277th in TOs forced.
- In an effort to find something approximating shot parity they are hammering the boards (26th) and very good at DREBs (87th).
- Maryland gets to the line a ton (20th) and has an old-timey Beilein FT rate allowed (2nd).
- Maryland is one of the worst teams in the country at avoiding and acquiring steals.
Maryland will have to win this game at the line or with some absurdly hot shooting since it looks inevitable that they will have a major shot volume deficit.
Zavier on the spot. Keeping Cowan out of the lane and off the line will cripple Maryland's efficiency. Cowan is a remarkably efficient player for a guy who has so few of his shots assisted. About 10% of his twos and just half his threes are aided by his teammates. If Simpson can stay in front of Cowan and avoid fouling him, Maryland doesn't really have a plan B.
Keep the 3PA avoidance going. There are four Maryland players who shoot threes and the worst clip anyone has is Cowan, who is at 38% despite the fact half his shots are jacks with a guy in his face. Maryland doesn't get off a ton of 'em because their offense struggles to create looks and they've always got a guy you can sag off of with impunity; Michigan has been very good at forcing opponents to shoot from inside the arc, which is Maryland poison this year.
Win transition. Maryland's eFG% plunges from 67% to 53% once you get them into the half-court. They've been pretty good in transition defense but Michigan brings an excellent transition offense with them (64%); have to figure that a team that operates with such a live-ball TO deficiency should be fairly easy to outscore in the open court, especially given Michigan's ability in that department so far.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 7.