#3 Michigan (7-0) vs. Western Michigan (6-1)
Time: 8:30 ET (BTN)
Place: Crisler Arena Center--Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Wolverines head back to the friendly confines of the Crisler Center after a comfortable road win against a seemingly improved Bradley team. Things were a bit dicey at the end, but such is the way of college basketball games on the road.
Regardless, Michigan is riding high, particularly off of the efforts of freshman sharpshooter Nik Stauskas. At 8-0 and ranked third in the country, things are prettyyy, prettyyy, prettyyy good.
The remainder of the nonconference schedule features all three Michigan directional schools, Binghamton, Arkansas and a fairly disappointing West Virginia team. Needless to say, a 14-0 start seems extremely likely for the Wolverines.
Of course, this is college basketball, where upsets do happen. For all of Michigan's success to date, this is still a very young team; it will be interesting to see how the Wolverines respond when its freshmen finally play like freshmen, all in the same game.
Western Michigan comes to town tonight, entering the contest with a 6-1 record. The Broncos dropped their season opener at Cornell, who currently sits at 4-5 on the season.
Otherwise, the Broncos are riding a 6-game winning streak, beating the following stalwarts: Marygrove, Loyola (IL), Maryland-Eastern Shore, South Florida, HP (High Point, not a team of surprisingly nimble Hewlett-Packard employees) and Oakland. Excluding the game against this so called "Marygrove," the Broncos have compiled an average margin of victory of 7.4 points, which seems like a modest sum even for a MAC team, but that is an impressionistic statement at best.
Offensively, the Broncos are paced by a triumvirate of double-digit scorers in: 6'7'' senior F Nate Hutcheson (13.7 ppg); 6'8'' freshman F Darius Paul (11.7 ppg), brother of Illinois' Brandon Paul; and 6'4'' senior G Brandon Pokley (11.4 ppg).
As a team, the Broncos are averaging a fairly middling 68.1 ppg, good for 176th in the country. For the sake of comparison, Bradley currently sits at 68th with 74.9 ppg.
6'10'' RS Jr. center Shayne Whittington is also pitching in 9.9 ppg and a team high 8.6 rebounds per game. Indeed, he is basically an Ent.
The Broncos seem to really only go seven deep, with small forward Connar Tava and guards Jared Klein and Austin Richie rounding out the regular rotation.
The Broncos are shooting an okay 37% from beyond the arc. Michigan's opponents have shot just 30.8% from downtown thus far. Hutcheson and Pokley have taken 58% of WMU's treys between them; Hutcheson is shooting just 33% whereas Pokley shoots a sterling 46%. As such, Pokley is clearly the guy to watch on the perimeter.
Although Western Michigan has been relatively successful under head coach Steve Hawkins' tutelage, they are in fact still a MAC team. Especially at home, this is not a team that Michigan should struggle against a la last year's Oakland game.
WMU does not possess exceptional depth or size, as you might expect. Their two most-used forwards are 6'7'' and 6'8''. Whittington is the only source of worry for Michigan in the front court. Otherwise, it's a medley of guards for this team. If Michigan doesn't go all 2009 Denard "broken plays are very dangerous" on this squad, that would not be good (although probably indicative of nothing save a disappointing singular performance).
The Broncos do possess a shiny 37% offensive rebounding percentage, but schedule caveats certainly apply. As long as Michigan cleans up the boards, this should be a pretty comfortable victory. Getting Whittington in foul trouble early would surely be a death knell to WMU's already minuscule chances at an upset. Whittington fouled out in WMU's last game against Oakland, and is averaging 2.71 fouls per game on the season.
So, go to work, Michigan bigs that now exist because it is 2012 and up is down and down is up.
- Slow and steady. Pace-wise, Michigan should feel right at home in this one; the Broncos are averaging 64.1 possessions per game, just under Michigan's 67.1 mark. The faint smell of molasses will linger in the Crisler Center air tonight.
- Charity. WMU has amassed a decent FT rate of 42.5%, good for 74th in the country (Michigan is ranked 255th at 31.3%). Just like any other game, stupid fouls on Michigan's part are one of only a couple things that could keep this game somewhat close.
- Give and take. Despite the less than difficult schedule, the Broncos have managed an assist to turnover ratio of exactly 1:1 (86 turnovers, 86 assists). Point guard Austin Richie leads the team in assists, but even he is only averaging 4.0 apg, with an assist percentage of 29.4 (140th in the country). Michigan should be able to force the Broncos into some ugly half court sets; again, as long as the Wolverines decline to present WMU with second chance opportunities, I don't see the Broncos consistently generating offense in the half court game.
There really isn't much to say. This is a MAC team that Michigan should easily handle. At 6'10'', Whittington provides a decent matchup for Michigan's front court, but given Michigan's lockdown effort against Pitt 7-footer Steven Adams, this isn't much of a concern at all.
Michigan should be able to get the bench some significant run about halfway through the second half. The only thing I'm looking for tonight and heading into the rest of the nonconference schedule is how the freshmen, particularly Stauskas, respond when things start not turning up Milhouse all the time, which you have to think is an inevitability. I mean, he can't keep maintain his current eFG% of 75.0% forever, right? Right? The funny thing is, I'm not even sure that that is a rhetorical question.
Score: Michigan 75, Western Michigan 59.