Northwestern vs. Michigan preview

NU doesn't have a lot more great opportunities to prove that they belong in the NCAA tournament this season. Tonight's not one of them, unless they lose to Michigan, in which case it is a great opportunity to prove that they don't belong in the NCAA tournament this season.

Hit the jump like it owes you money to find out about the Wolverines.

Are they good? By the standards of a non-Big Ten team, sure. Kenpom has the Wolverines at No. 62 in the country, and they performed well against the non-con - the only loss to be mad about is to UTEP - but the cracks have shown against Big Ten competition. The victors valiant are 1-4, with the one win coming against Penn State. Sure, you can point to PSU's recent performances as them being a good team, or to Michigan's tight losses to undefeated Kansas - six points - and Ohio State - three points - squads, but, well, a 19-point blowout against Indiana does away with the good will generated by that.

Who they got? The world does not give sophomore combo guard Darius Morris the respect he deserves, mainly because he was busy not doing much behind Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims last time you checked. But, well, Jesus: he's shooting 50 percent from the floor and averaging 15.7 points... and 7.3 assists. That's McCamey-esque, gentlemen. He assists over 49 percent of field goals scored while he's on the court that aren't scored by him. You know how many people out of the thousands of division I basketball players are better than that? One. That's it. Morris will drive and dish, but will also drive and score. Luckily, him and the team's second leading scorer in John Beilien's patented two-guard offense - it's kinda like the Princeton Offense, but less based on post play - Tim Hardaway Jr., who is second on the team in scoring, can't shoot a lick - both clock in under 30 percent from downtown on the year. That's because Michigan has a distinct group of "All We Do is Shoot 3-pointers" personnel in Steve Zach Novak, Stu Douglass, and to a lesser extent, freshman Evan Smotrycz, and Matt Vogrich. Drive. Kick. Drive kick.

What are they good at?: Michigan doesn't turn the ball over much, which can probably be attributed to the four guys who play a lot and probably haven't dribbled all season. Only 6.6 percent of Wolverine possessions end up in steals - the sixth best figure in the nation. 45 percent of the Wolverines' shots are from downtown, and those guys I mentioned up there are good at hitting them, although Morris and Hardaway aren't.

What are they bad at?: A weird group of things: first off, they don't force many turnovers, which is strange, because they run a 1-3-1 base defense predicated on trading an occasional easy hoop for an occasional turnover. Secondly, they can't grab offensive rebounds for their lives (301st in the country), but are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country (34th) and they can't get to the line (333rd out of 345 teams in FTA/FGA) but don't commit a lot of fouls. And while they rarely let opponents steal the ball, they get steals only 7.1 percent of possessions, marginally better than they are at not giving the ball up. Normally you don't see such huge disparities between being good at something on offense and being terrible at it on defense, but, Michigan has them, and vice versa.

Tougher name to spell, "Smotrycz", "Krzyzewski" or "Peljusic": JerShon.

I wish you would write a post about the differences between Michigan's 1-3-1 zone defense and Northwestern's: Shut up and wait a few weeks. Dick.

How can NU beat Michigan?: Hey, bros: this is the defense you play against in practice. While NU has looked comfortable switching in and out of the 1-3-1, seeing limited success with both from time to time, Michigan is pretty much only comfortable running zone. Hint: they will murder it. Fellow hint: so will Michigan. Morris and Hardaway are UM's best players, but that doesn't mean they won't eschew scoring duties for the night to let the 3-point parade roll down Central Avenue. NU could use the scoring of Davide Curletti against a team without much of an inside presence, but will also need the staunch interior help defense out of... well nobody has played staunch interior help defense ever for NU, so hopefully someone can do it when Morris drives so that the guys on the perimeter can just stick on their men and prevent the drive-and-dish from making Darius Morris happy.

Should NU beat Michigan?: Transitive property NU's trouncing of Indiana and Indiana's trouncing of Michigan. Looks good.

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