Tuesday, Jan 18th, 8:00 CT
Coming off a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Michigan State, Northwestern looks to rebound against the Michigan Wolverines. The Wildcats are now 11-5, and 2-4 in conference, meaning a win is much-needed for the ‘Cats to stay alive in the Big Ten standings.
Northwestern will face a struggling Michigan team, who has dropped four or their last five games, and has one just one road game.
However, Michigan presents a challenge for the Wildcats. The Wolverines are a tough team to matchup against, and they always give a tough battle, which was evidenced by Michigan's devastating overtime loss to #3 Kansas just a week ago.
This is a totally different Michigan team. This year's Wolverines have no seniors, and five freshmen.
This is a game that the Wildcats have to win, to keep their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid alive.
Northwestern took both games against Michigan in 2010. In the first matchup, the Wildcats had to rally from down 17 points, to beat Michigan on the road. In the second game, Northwestern had four scorers in double-figures, en-route to a 15-point win.
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR THE WILDCATS: Drew Crawford
In last year's matchup against the Wolverines, Drew Crawford led the way, with 17 points in each game. Crawford is coming off a pair of impressive performances against Iowa and Michigan State. The Wildcats need Crawford to continue his pace with another big game against Michigan.
If Northwestern still hopes to make some hay in the rest of conference play, and into the postseason, Drew Crawford has to bring his A game.
I'm going with two players to watch for. Michigan is led by strong guard play from sophomore Darius Morris and true freshman Tim Hardaway Jr., the son of five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway.
Morris enters the game averaging 15.7 points per game, while Hardaway Jr. averages 11.2 points per game. Northwestern will need very tough defense to contain these two scorers, because Michigan lacks serious depth after them.
KEY MATCHUP: Luka Mirkovic vs. EVERYONE
This is the same key matchup as the Iowa game. Like the Hawkeyes, Michigan does not have a strong presence underneath the hoop. Michigan's leading rebounder is Zack Novak, a 6-4 guard. Mirkovic is coming off a solid performance against Michigan State.
The 6-11 center needs to use his major height advantage to have a big game. If he can do that, Northwestern will be in great shape.
KEY TO A WILDCAT WIN: Defense
The Wolverines average 56.8 PPG in their seven losses this season. Simply put, they cannot compete with a strong defense. Northwestern has featured a strong defense to matchup against. The Wildcats need to control the game with tight defense, and unlike Saturday's game, REBOUNDS.
If the Wildcats control the tempo, and bring a strong defensive effort, they will be back on track with a win.