Friday, December 18, 2009

Michigan @ Kansas previ... aw forget it

So, there's basically no way Michigan comes away with a win here, right? Kansas is the consensus #1 in the country and Michigan can't shoot the ball. All you need to look at is point differential:

Points For
Points Against

Holy yikes. Kansas is nearly doubling their opponents score. And given Michigan's struggles on both sides of the floor, there's no evidence to suggest that this is a trend that will reverse itself. And that's not to mention that Kansas is shooting a ridiculous 51.2% from the field and 44.2% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Michigan is only hitting 42.2% of their shots, including 29.7% from the three-point range.

It's difficult to compare this game to the ones against Duke and UCLA early last year because, while Michigan clearly wasn't an established power, they also didn't look completely out of sorts. Nothing Michigan has done this year has inspired any confidence in thinking they can beat Kansas. In fact, nothing they've done has made me think they can come within 20 points of Kansas. But as I've said before, this is college basketball and it's predicated on weird stuff happening

Michigan is going to need strong performances from Sims and Harris if they're going to have any chance in this game. Unfortunately, Sims will be matched up against 6'11" junior center Cole Aldrich. And as we saw numerous times last year and most recently against Utah, when Sims is outsized, he tends to struggle. Expect him to be forced into an outside-shooting role this game with little production down low. If he can't establish his offensive (and defensive, for that matter) presence in the post early--against an experienced center averaging 3.6 blocks per game this year--there's little to no way Michigan wins. That is unless they defy all of their averages this year and decide to shoot 55%+ from three-point land.

The other guy Michigan is really going to have to worry about is freshman super-guard, and former Caliperi commit, Xavier Henry, who is averaging 18 PPG, and shooting over 50% from the field (and over 50% from three-point). This will be up to Manny Harris, who, unless he steps his defensive game up, is going to be thoroughly embarrassed tomorrow by an exceptional athlete.

Michigan isn't explicitly outsized, but they are outmanned, as Kansas has nine players who average more than 10 minutes per game to Michigan's seven. As the game goes on, Michigan is probably going to tire, trying to cover the depth and explosiveness of the Kansas roster. They're going to have to create turnovers to stay in this game, and given Michigan's difficult in the 1-3-1 this year, this is unlikely.

(The problems with the 1-3-1 this year are numerous, but mostly boil down to consistency. Michigan is having trouble trapping the ball high and teams are getting easy passes into the middle of the zone. This causes a convergence of defenders, leaving corner shooters open. Whose fault is this? The guards, basically, and I think a lot of it falls on the shoulders of Darius Morris who hasn't had enough time in the system yet to become comfortable and consistent in it. As time goes on, I think you see the defense become less porous simply because the new players have had more time to really fit into the system and work together.)

So how does Michigan win? Um, they don't. No really, they don't. Unless they can shoot remarkably better than they have all year, the defense finds a way to create turnovers, and the bench steps up big, Michigan has zero chance of winning this one. That or they'll need a complete collapse by Kansas, something that doesn't often happen to consensus #1 teams that are deep and highly talented. If Michigan can keep this close and begins to shoot the ball better, we can consider this game a victory.


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