Friday, January 13, 2012

Iowa Preview: On The Road Again

Take Two...hopefully this one goes a little better than the last one

General Outlook

The Wolverines are sitting pretty, ranked in the top 15 and 14-3 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten. Michigan travels to Iowa on Saturday to face a very beatable Hawkeye team, the last such showdown before Michigan embarks on the trek to the Mordor known as "the next two weeks of the schedule." As such, this is another one that Michigan just needs to have. Five B1G wins at this point in the season would be a very fine number indeed as we strive for the all-important .500 mark (or better) mark in conference play.

Iowa is not very good, and you know times are rough when your head coach is slamming chairs into the floor with gusto. The 10-8 Hawkeyes, after grabbing two nice wins on the road at Wisconsin and Minnesota, have been blown out of the gym against the Buckeyes and Spartans, the latter being the scene of the McCaffery chair-slamming incident. Iowa's schedule also features losses to in-state foes UNI and Iowa State, Clemson, Creighton, Purdue, and the CAMPBELL FIGHTING CAMELS. That has to be one of the more awesome things I've heard since the news of Richardson, Hightower, and Kirkpatrick going pro.

However, it is in fact a road game. As far as I'm concerned, the opponent does not matter...a road win in the Big Ten is a good win, period. As is the norm, you'll have to suffer an absurd fouls called disparity and some general home cookin', so to not take that into account before you settle down to watch is asking to be disappointed. Basically, imagine that Michigan is already down 7 or 8 right at this very moment.

The Offense 

For BHGP's analysis of the massacre against the Spartans, there's this, with the following particularly eye-opening statistic: 34 of MSU's 37 made shots were layups, dunks, or 3-pointers. If the post's accompanying picture is indicative of anything, it's a product of lazy, unorganized defense, a defense which on the whole seems to be trending down.

Defensively, the Hawkeyes are giving up 71.7 ppg, and their 3-point defense percentage is about the same as Michigan's team shooting average (35.2% and 35.5%, respectively). Since Big Ten play began, the Hawkeyes have give up: 79, 65, 62, 76, and 95 points in each of their contests. This is a team that can and should be scored upon. They are notching just under 4 blocks a game in conference play, with the athletic Melsahn Basabe leading the way in that, beware under the basket, Jordan Morgan et al.

Again, outside of Basabe, I don't really see an abundance of athleticism on this team. They have nobody taller than 6'8'' that appears to get much time. Rebounding might not be much of an issue, so I would imagine that Michigan should be able to make hay on the offensive boards yet again. As with the block stat, Basabe is the only player worth mentioning re: rebounds, holding the 8th highest RPG in the conference. Iowa's next best rebounder seems to be Matt Gatens--insert generic THAT GUY HAS BEEN IN SCHOOL FOR A LONG TIME joke--who checks in at the 25 spot.

So, Iowa has some okay size across the board but no true deployable center types to speak of. The starting five are all between 6'5'' and 6''7, and Aaron White off the bench is 6'8''. Michigan should be able to release the hounds and grab some easy put backs; hopefully some action on the offensive boards early in the game will be able to give the JMo the push that he needs to revive his offensive game. He has been rebounding like Dennis Rodman of late, with 12, 9, 11, and 8 in his last four games, so he should be able to continue that success.

Once again, I think Michigan should run, run, and run some more, like the Cyclones did against the Hawkeyes  en route to dropping 86 a little over a month ago.

The Defense

Defensively, Michigan has done just fine of late. Although the Wolverines did give up some back door cuts and threes against the Wildcats, they held them to 64 in a game that went to overtime. Of course, the Wisconsin game was a defensive strangling, particularly impressive after the Badgers went to West Lafayette last night and scored 67 against a typically hard-nosed defensive squad (although Purdue is a little down in that respect this season).

As for defending the 3--Michigan's noted Achilles Heel--goes, the Hawkeyes don't really have anybody that has been shooting the lights out. Gatens was once a 40% shooter as a freshman in '08 but his numbers have been much worse every year since, including this season, where he sits at 33%. Otherwise, Zach McCabe is shooting 43% on 21 attempts, and Basabe has not attempted one all year. Eric May shoots a respectable 38% off of the bench.

Otherwise, Gatens is their leading scorer with 13 ppg. Basabe is a athletic slasher type that doesn't shoot it well but can have success against a team like us. Roy Devyn Marble is a sophomore from Southfield that has upped his ppg (10.7 ppg this year) from last year but has been sort of a hit or miss throughout the conference slate thus far. McCabe is just sort of a guy and Aaron White is a 6'8'' freshman shooting 49% from the field with seemingly solid rebounding and shot-blocking capability; I haven't seen much of Iowa, but he seems to be their version of Jordan Morgan.

Yet, this is a team that had offensive success against us last year, the game in Crisler featuring a valiant comeback that fell short, the other an overtime loss. Iowa scored 73 and 72 in those games, respectively. Basabe in particular had very good games in each, scoring 25 and 19. Although BHGP seems to be down on him in the above linked post, I think he's the most dangerous guy they have. BHGP notes:
There are teams where Basabe has a good match-up and excels, but those are teams without strong post players. Against teams with big centers, Basabe is just too much of a liability on defense and too hesitant on offense to add much.
Hey, that's us (the first one)! If he has similar success like last year's contests, we could be in for a close one.

Who and What To Watch

  • Whoever draws Basabe on defense. 
  • Morgan and Smotrycz on the boards. 
  • Whether or not Smotrycz can start hitting those treys again.

Meaningless Prediction

Iowa is not very good defensively, but, they can score. Basabe is only averaging 9.1 ppg but he's capable of much more against our personnel if last year is any indication. The game will remain close for a while but too much THJ, Burke, and Morgan hitting the boards will be enough to propel the Wolverines to a solid taking-care-of-business road victory. Michigan 70, Iowa 62. 

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