Michigan Wolverines Preview
Date: Saturday, January 14th, 2017 - Crisler Arena - Ann Arbor, Michigan
2015-16 Record: 23-13 (10-8 Big Ten)
2016-17 Record: 11-6 (1-3 Big Ten)
Head Coach: John Beilein (10th year)
Michigan is having an interesting season so far. They started off with high expectations which lead them to an early 5-0 record and a #25 ranking. No wins were over anyone spectacular outside of a struggling Marquette team that has shown some signs of life. Since then they have fallen of a bit. Going 7-6 since their peek into the national rankings.
The losses have not exactly been terrible but they would have needed some to fall their way if they expect to be dancing in March. Losses to South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and current #4 UCLA are nothing to scoff at this year.
However, their losing way have taken them into conference play. They lost to struggling Iowa in overtime on the road to start the season off. They came back to Ann Arbor to beat Penn State. From there they lost to Maryland and Illinois.
None of these losses are too terrible. All but Iowa are looking at the post season with hunger in their eyes. But, they really needed to take home one or two of these game to make life comfortable moving forward. Right now, they are not exactly in the drivers seat for their future and it’s starting to wear on the team.
The Wolverines are kind of the opposite of Nebraska this year. They rely upon their offensive output to win games. Defense, is something they struggle with. They are at the bottom or near the bottom of the Big Ten in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and blocked shots. They averaging around the middle of the pack in steals. This helps show why they have struggled against high scoring teams this year.
The Wolverines are lead by senior guard Zak Irvin. Zak has been a mainstay for the Wolverines for quite some time. He broke out his sophomore year averaging 14.3 ppg. There was a slight slump last year bringing his average down to 11.8 ppg but he has brought it back up a bit to 13.8. I state this because his improvement has been the one major bright spot in the Wolverine line up.
Next to Irvin is another veteran on the court, Derrick Walton Jr. The 6’1” senior guard is averaging 12.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg. Not to bad for a guy who is towered over by a majority of the players on the court.
Also of note is forward Mortiz Wagner. The 6’11” sophomore is averaging 11.6 ppg and pulling down 3.5 rpg which has been a huge help as the season has gone on. The output drops considerably once you get into the bench. There is some possible talent on there, but it hasn’t show it’s head this year.
Nebraska can win if they play hard on defense and keep their shooting percentage in the 40’s. The emerging Husker bench can also come into play by being there to help give the starters a rest when need. This game could go either way. It will most likely come down to which team’s talent rises the fastest.