No more moral victories. That's the goal for Northwestern as it heads to Ann Arbor on Saturday for its fifth game of the conference season. The Wildcats could very easily be 3-1 in the conference, but after coming up short against Michigan State and Illinois, the reality is that they're not. Instead, they're 1-3.
Michigan, however, isn't the same Michigan team you've come to expect John Beilein to put on the floor in recent years. The Wolverines have a shallow bench, an undersized backcourt, and an under-skilled frontcourt. They've started 3-2 in the conference, but struggled mightily towards the end of the non-conference slate.
This seems like a decent chance for Northwestern to pull off a mild surprise. At the very least, if the Wildcats play well, they should find themselves in another close game. But as we've seen recently, that on its own isn't sufficient.
There's one piece of notable pregame news. Nate Taphorn, who had given Northwestern a spark off the bench in two consecutive games, is in a walking boot and will not play against Michigan due to a foot injury.
Here's everything you need to know about the game:
Time: 7:15 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WGN, 720 AM in Chicagoland and wgnradio.com
Line: Michigan opened as a 10-point favorite, but the line quickly got pushed down to 7.5. As of Saturday morning, it had settled in at 8.5.
KenPom: KenPom says Northwestern has just a 22 percent chance to win the game. Michigan is projected to win 60-54.
Key Stat: According to KenPom, Michigan's adjusted tempo is just 61.4, which is the 332nd slowest in Division 1. KP defines adjusted tempo as an estimate of the possessions a team would have against a team playing at an average tempo. Considering the average tempo is 65.6, Michigan plays a very slow style meaning the Wolverines don't get up a lot of shots and use much of the shot clock. So this game probably will be a low-scoring defensive battle, which plays right into NU's hands.
Check back here right before tip to follow along with us during the game on our gamethread.