What to Know
The Michigan Wolverines will come to Iowa City on New Years Day with a 10-3 record. They will be participating in their first Big Ten game of the season, whereas Iowa will be in it's second. The Wolverines are ranked as Ken Pomeroy's 28th best team today, but that could change by game time on Sunday.
Their three losses have all come to good teams. The were ousted by the UCLA Bruins, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. They have two good wins over KenPom number 34, SMU and KenPom 35, Marquette.
They come in averaging 75 points per game on offense and, despite giving up 102 to UCLA, are one of the best scoring defense teams in the country. They are allowing just 61 points per game, which is 17th nationally and 2nd in the Big Ten.
This is a team that is going to rely on the three pointer pretty heavily. They don't have a true big man that can score with his back to the basket on a consistent basis, so they rely on chucking up the long ball.
In their win over Central Arkansas in the middle of December they made 19 of 45 three point field goals.
Last season, the Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines in both games they met. Both victories came by double digits as well. Iowa's Peter Jok averaged 13.5 points per game in those two against John Beilein's team. The Hawkeyes are winners of four straight against the Wolverines as well.
This is going to come down to whether or not the Wolverines are hitting their three's. Iowa allowed 10 first half three pointers to Purdue on Wednesday night, but the did play in a zone for a majority of the night. And they won't have guys like Swanigan and Haas to worry about on the block on Sunday against Michigan.
For Michigan, this game against Iowa is going to be their third true road test of the season. They are 0-2 in their first two games at South Carolina and at UCLA. They lost both of those games by double digits.
Who to Know
The Wolverines don't really have that one guy that can fill it up. They have good balance as a team with 6 players averaging 8 or more points per game. Senior forward, Zak Irvin, leads the way averaging just over 14 points per game. Irvin also ranks second on the team in rebounding and assists per game. He struggled a bit last year compared to the numbers he posted as a sophomore, but Irvin looks to be back to his 2014-15 form. He averaged 14 points and shot 36% from behind the arc that season.
He's a guy that, when he gets going, can really fill it up.
Derrick Walton Jr. is the next name to know for this Wolverine team. He's been a four year player for Beilein and has been productive ever since he stepped on campus. Walton, another senior, is averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists early on this season for Michigan. He's shooting 41% from behind the arc and 93% from the free throw line, which is top 10 in the entire country. He does a good job putting pressure on opposing point guards, so Jordan Bohannon will have to deal with pressure again on Sunday.
Walton is capable of putting a lot of points on the board. He's scored 20 or more points in 3 games for the Wolverines this season.
Sophomore forward, Moritz Wagner, has probably made the biggest leap for Beilein's team this season. He averaged 3 points last season, but early on is pouring in about 12 per game.
Ever since Mitch McGary left after the 2013-14 season it's been kind of a mystery as to what Michigan is going to get from it's big guys. They've been pretty guard/small forward driven over the last couple of seasons, but Wagner is changing that this season. At 6'10", Wagner gives Michigan a big body in the middle to protect the paint, but he can also step out and hit the three pointer. He's shooting 50% from behind the arc this season.
Muhammad Ali-Abdur Rahkman and D.J. Wilson round out the starting lineup for the Wolverines. Rahkman gives them a solid defender and decent shooter, while Wilson gives them another athletic big at 6'11". Both players average about 8 points per game, with Wilson leading the team averaging 7 rebounds per contest.
Duncan Robinson and Xavier Simpson are two names to keep an eye on off the bench for Michigan. Robinson, if he gets hot, is one of the better three point shooters in the conference. While Simpson, a true freshman, is just finding his groove. He's only playing about 10 minutes per game, but has made an impact in the past few games for the Wolverines.
Stats to Know
If you've watched a shred of Michigan basketball last season or this season, you know they thrive on the three ball. In fact, 39 percent of their offense comes from the three. They've got five different players than have made 14 or more three pointers in Walton, Robinson, Wagner, Rahkman, and Irvin. The goal for them is to get 3 while you get 2, although they've been exceptional on defense so far this season so it isn't like they are trading baskets.
Aside from the three, they do a lot of little things well. But they're so key to having a good team. They rank in the top 10 in the nation in fouls per game, turnovers per game, and free throw percentage. Meaning, they don't foul you, don't turn it over, and hit their free throws. Doing little things like these right, is so key to having success.
Overall, Michigan holds a 91-62 lead in this series, but it's been pretty back and forth over the last few seasons. Michigan has won 11 of the last 17, but the Hawkeyes have won the last four. And with this game being held inside Carver Hawkeye Arena, it is giving the Hawkeyes the advantage. Iowa has won the last three games played in Carver, which dates back to 2012. Also, three of the last six games played in Iowa City have gone to overtime, with Iowa winning two of those games. So, we can expect a close battle on Sunday afternoon.