Well, that win streak was fun.
Fun, but over. After a disappointing performance against Illinois that saw Northwestern's four-game win streak expire, the Wildcats will look to right the ship against Michigan on Tuesday night at Welsh-Ryan. As is usually the case for a team's final home game, the contest against Michigan is Northwestern's Senior Night, meaning Dave Sobolewski, JerShon Cobb and Jeremiah Kreisberg will be honored before their last game in Evanston. All three seniors talked about what it feels like to be nearing the end of their college careers and what's next for them after practice on Monday.
All signs point to Cobb returning from an injury that he's been battling all year and that has forced him to miss the last six games. This season has been incredibly frustrating for Cobb, so it's really poetic justice that he'll get the chance to suit up for his last home game at Northwestern. If he's feeling alright, he can not only play but can be particularly effective, as Michigan relies on a 1-3-1 zone that is vulnerable to teams that have shooters, which is primarily the role Cobb has played this year due to his compromised mobility. The last time these two teams played, on January 17 in Ann Arbor, Cobb scored 13 points, the most he's scored this year in Big Ten play.
And what a game that was. It was a seesaw battle throughout and Michigan held a two point lead when Caris LeVert missed a jumper that would have put the game out of reach. After Collins elected not to call a timeout to set up a final shot, Bryant McIntosh fortuitously came upon an open layup with three seconds left, but his attempt was too strong and Michigan escaped with a 56-54 victory. After that game, McIntosh was visibly upset and was picked up off the gym floor by Collins. Look for McIntosh to be thirsty for revenge.
That January game was the last LeVert would play all year, as he was diagnosed with a broken foot shortly thereafter and has not played--and will not play--another game this season. The Wolverines have struggled without LeVert and have lost six of seven to drop to 14-14 on the season and 7-9 in Big Ten play. In LeVert's absence, Michigan has been led by 6-foot-6 sophomore Zak Irvin; and Spike Albrecht, who starred in the 2013 National Championship game, has seen a resurgence as of late, averaging 13.6 points over the last five games.
Expect Michigan to shoot threes early and often, particularly if Northwestern stays in the zone that was effective until the beatdown in Urbana-Champaign. Of Big Ten teams, only Indiana takes more threes than Michigan, who averages 21.8 three-point attempts per game. However, the Wolverines are only 8th in three-point percentage (34.7 percent), which goes a long way in explaining why they've had a rough season.
Here's how to watch Tuesday night:
Time: 8:00 p.m. CT
Radio: 720 WGN and 89.3 WNUR
Line: Northwestern opened as a 2-point favorite, and the line has since climbed to 3.
KenPom: KenPom thinks Northwestern will come out on top, giving Northwestern a 60 percent chance of winning and predicting a final score of 59-57.
Key Stat: Northwestern's opponents are making 37.8 percent of their three pointers, making the Wildcats the worst team in the Big Ten at defending the three. As stated above, Michigan takes the second most threes in the conference, and if the Wolverines are able to convert at a good clip, it could be a long night for Northwestern.
Check back here around gametime to follow along with us on our gamethread.