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Minnesota on the Road Again Looking For First Big Ten Win at Michigan - OPEN THREAD

HAPPY NEW YEAR. 2011 is finally over for Gopher basketball and maybe 2012 will be a kinder year to the program. We start the year out with a trip to Michigan where our season was effectively ended last year with the Al Nolen injury. So far this season I'm seeing a pattern to the Gopher's. We win six games, lose one. Then we win six games and lose one. Time to start that next six game win streak this afternoon in Ann Arbor.

Game Time: 3:00

Pos Minnesota Pnt/Gm Pnt/Gm Michigan Pos
PG Maverick Ahanmisi 4.6 13.0 Trey Burke
G Julian Welch 10.3 15.4 Tim Hardaway Jr G
F Austin Hollins 8.6 9.4 Zack Novak
F Rodney Williams 9.6 11.7 Evan Smotrycz F
C Ralph Sampson III 9.4 7.8 Jordan Morgan F
Bench Andre Hollins 6.3 6.9 Stu Douglass Bench
Bench Chip Armelin 5.9 2.2 Matt Vogrich
Bench Eliott Eliason
2.8 1.1 Blake McLimans

The Wolverines thought to be suffering a significant setback in the offseason when their best player, Darius Morris, decided to enter the NBA Draft. But things haven't been too bad because of the emergence of freshman point guard Trey Burke. The three-star PG out of Columbus has twice won conference freshman of the week honors and is 2nd on the team in scoring.

The matchup I like is Austin Hollins on Zach Novak (I hope that is the matchup). Hollins is the one guy I trust to not get lost on defense and will limit the amount of wide open looks Novak will get. I expect Michigan will run some sets for Novak and Hollins may not get the help he needs, but for the most part I think this is an opportunity to keep his three-point shooting contained.

The matchup I do not like is Rodney guarding Evan Smotrycz. The 6-9 sophomore is shooting nearly 58% from behind the line and with 38 attempts (would be good enough for 2nd on Gophers as far as attempts go). I fear that Rodney will get lost defensively or sink too low hoping to get a blocked shot while Smotrycz will leak out to the line and be wide open for three after three.

KenPom Efficiency Stats Minnesota (46) Michigan (49)
Record 12-2 10-2
Pnt / Poss 1.090 1.106 (29)
Def Pnt / Poss 0.945 0.959
Off eFG% 52.3%
58.2% (3)
Def eFG% 47.4% 47.2%
Off Reb % 37.9% 30.4%
Def Reb % 68.0% 72.3%
TO % 22.0% 19.3%

The number that jumps out is Michigan's eFG%, where they rank 3rd nationally. That is such a high number because they shoot a lot of threes and they make a lot of threes. 36.7% of their total points scored come from behind the arc. And because people respect their threes so much, they then take advantage of that by getting some easy 2s. They currently lead the nation in 2 pnt FG%.

I see two keys to today's game.

1 - Stop the Three - The problem here is that we do not defend the three very well, haven't for a few years. If we can get out and defend the three, bringing their percentage down and making them work for their points then I think we win this game. Austin needs to lock down Novak. Rodney needs to pay attention to Smotrycz.

2 - Dominate the Paint - For us to win the game offensively we need to pound the ball inside. Sampson, Eliason and Rodney should be able to score inside. Michigan has a thin bench and a short roster. Ralph needs to use his three or four inch advantage over Jordan Morgan and dominate the paint. And after a game where Rodney was ineffective against a big/strong Illini frontcourt, I think this is an opportunity for him to get the ball inside and score often. Smotrycz is a shooting forward, Rodney needs to get physical with him in the paint and the guards need to get him the ball around the rim. This can be done.

After seeing how we played at Illinois, I have more confidence that we can win this game. But Michigan cannot get comfortable shooting threes or we might get buried. We will lose a game where we trade threes for twos.