BKB Pregame Intel: Michigan Wolverines

The sometimes inconsistent Northwestern Wildcats head to the Crisler Arena at Michigan to face the Wolverines in Wednesday's Big 10 matchup. Both teams are coming off a loss - NU to Conference leading Wisconsin, and Michigan to Big 10 powerhouse Illinois. The Cats own a two game wining streak over the Wolves - can they continue the run?

The Wolverines [11-3 1-2] have to be the most experienced team in the Big Ten...
and according to NU Coach Bill Carmody:
Its a big team, and they can go big, but they also have some of the better perimeter players in the league in [Dion] Harris and [Daniel] Horton and [Lester] Abram. [WGN Postgame]
However, the Cats have won 2 straight over the Wolverines, not at Crisler Arena lately, but at home and in the Big 10 Tourney.
We've done OK there, we've played decently there. -- Bill Carmody
As that experience thing, Michigan starts one freshman, and that's only because junior Wing Lester Abram hurt his toe and couldn't play. Even so, their top seven players are still all seniors and juniors.

UM OfficialThey're also as balanced as any team in the league with senior Daniel Horton and juniors Dion Harris, Abram and Courtney Sims [left] capable of 20-point games. There's depth and size inside with Courtney Sims, a 6-foot-11 junior, senior Chris Hunter at 6-11, 6-9 senior Graham Brown and 6-8 junior Brent Petway.

Michigan plays an offense with a Forward, Center and 3 guards and at times, there's a Wing in there instead. UM's wings are all 6-5 or 6-6 - its a "big" team.

But they've lost 2 games of their last 3 games to Illinois [74-79] and Indiana [63-70], with a fairly close win over Purdue [68-65] sandwiched in between. Even so, their Coach, Tommy Amaker, thinks the Wolves's position in the Big 10 will change for the better.UM Official
"... I think our team is close. Look how Daniel Horton [right] is playing. We're getting Lester back in the groove of things and Brent [Petway -scholastically ineligible the first semester] gave us some really good minutes against Illinois. -- Tommy Amaker Detroit News
The Wolverines just can't seem to win the big game even though their only loss in pre-conference was to nationally ranked UCLA [and they did beat Miami and Notre Dame]. But they think they should have won at Indiana and Illinois.
"We've had to go to Indiana and Illinois in two of our first three games in the conference. It won't be as hard as that (in the future), but it won't be much easier either," PG Daniel Horton said in the Oakland Press.
So what's wrong with Amaker's bunch? Despite playing all those upperclassmen, its the little errors:
"We're making mistakes we're too old to make," Courtney Sims [Detroit News] said. "It's just some of the little things we have to start doing and that's what makes it so aggravating.
One assessment is that the Wolverines don't finish their games. In Illinois they got way behind at the half and couldn't come back. Amaker's comment?
"You've got to play the full 40 minutes. Certainly we competed for 40 minutes, but certainly we didn't execute as well as we need to against a top-ranked opponent on the road in a very difficult environment." [Oakland Press]
On defense this year, the Wolves has held its opponent to under 60 points six out of their 11 games, and had back to back games under 50. Their defense holds opponents to and average 62.9 ppg. Compare that to their 72.7 ppg.

Something else that jumps out at you about Michigan - when you look at our player categories, Both Graham Brown [5.4 ppg] and Courtney Sims [14.6 ppg] are hitting well over 65% of their shots. Harris and Horton are close in their 3 point shots too and make almost 40% of their attempts. Carmody is right - these guys can score.

Its the same off the boards - Brown and Sims both average over 7 rebounds a game.
Injuries:
Lester Abram - who averaged 14.6 ppg before being injured, expects to start against NU, even though he's not 100% - He missed the Indiana game and wasn't considered 100% for Illinois - both Michigan Losses - "Just, after the games, I know there's going to be some swelling, some pain. It's something I can take. It's not that serious." [Oakland Press]
Final Analysis
Michigan has played some close games lately. NU's coach was asked about losing games like that, and if it can start to wear on a team.
I don't think that wear's on you, that's a consistency. That's what you want to do, you don't want to lose by 16 like we [NU] did at Wisconsin - I haven't looked at that game yet, I watched a little bit of that game, but I watched the Indiana game [with Michigan]. I think they're [Mich] playing consistently pretty good, and that's two games against two good teams.

Maybe if there's 5 games left in the season and you lost 5 away and they've all been close, then maybe it wears or grates on you, but right now I don't think so - I think its a mark of a pretty good team to play good teams close on the road. --
Bill Carmody Big 10 Teleconference
And if Michigan is playing well on the road, Bill Carmody is worried about his wildcats.
Again I just want to start playing well and not - why are we turning it over against a team that doesn't press, why are we missing these layups? Are we not capable? [Teleconference]
And the morning line from Michigan?
Now it's our turn and we're back at home and we need to see if we can hold our home court here on Wednesday night." -- Tommy Amaker Detroit News

Coach Roy's Purple Reign 'Cat'egories:

The Big Gun #4 Daniel Horton
16.0 ppg
Deadeye Dick #25 Graham Brown*
32 of 47 -
68.1% shooting
The Bomber Horton+
71 from the arc
[makes 39.4%]
Off the Boards Brown++
7.6 rpg
Charity Stripe #5 Dion Harris
makes 91.7%
Super Sub #31 Chris Hunter
played 16.3 mins in
all 14 games -  5.7 ppg
Pickpocket Horton
26 this season
Helping Hands Horton
79 so far
Mr. Defense #44 Courtney Sims
31 Blocks 62 def rbnds

* Courtney Sims makes 65.3% of his shots [79 of 121].
+ Dion Harris took 66 from the arc - hits 37.9%
++ Sims averages 7.1 rpg

Expected Starters 


PPG RPG
Forward
#25 Graham Brown [6-9 Sr]
5.4
7.6
Center
#44 Courtney Sims [6-11 Jr]
14.6
7.1
Guard
#1 Jerret Smith [6-3 Fr]*
# 4 Daniel Horton [6-3 Sr]
#5 Dion Harris [6-3 Jr]
3.2
16.0
10.1
1.1
2.6
3.6

Totals: 49.3
22.0

Notes:
The Wolverine starters have averaged more rebounds than NU usually makes all game.
* Smith only joined the starters for the Purdue game after the injury to Abram. He's listed as the starter, but Abram could return in that slot.

Off the Bench
[Have Played in most games, or Averaging 9+ mins]:  

Games -
Starts

Minutes PPG RPG
#32 Lester Abram+ [W 6-6 Jr]
#31 Chris Hunter [F 6-11 Sr]
#24 Ron Colman [W 6-6 So]
#15 Jevohn Shepherd [W 6-5 Fr]
#23 Brent Petway [F 6-8 Jr]*
12-11
14-0
14-2
12-0
3-0
29.8
16.3
13.7
10.6
12.7
12.0
5.7
3.9
2.3
5.7
3.3
3.6
2.4
1.3
3.3
Totals:
16.6
29.6
13.9

Notes: + Started at guard prior to his injury against Indiana
* Was inelligible for the Fall Games

Challenges for the Wildcats:
  • Make Layups - that's what led to NU's low percentages last time out.
  • Play a good zone D - although these guys will challenge both inside and outside.
  • Improve on the 35% shooting - take and make high percentage shots inside.
  • Take care of the ball - Michigan's opponents average 13.8 turnovers a game, and 11 of them have lost. Michigan averages 6.5 steals per game.
This game will be challenge both for NU's motion offense, and the 1-3-1 matchup zone defense. Michigan has the shooters to force the Cats out and the big long bodies to force NU to shoot from the arc.

This could become a big night scoring from outside for Vedran Vukusic and Craig Moore and winning probably will involve good shooting performances from both of NU's "bombers."

Bill Carmody would also welcome a good shooting night from Bernard Cote` and Tim Doyle, and some slashing drives by Sterling Williams and Mohamed Hachad.

All told this is a winable game for Northwestern, but NU won't catch Michigan sleeping tonight.

Game Starts at 7 PM - Wildcat Time

Television: ESPN+/ESPNU - including WWME in Chicago and WKBD in Detroit [UPN50] - Mike Gleason and Shon Morris

Radio:
  • WGN, with Dave Eanet and Nate Pomeday
  • NUSports
  • WJR Detroit Matt Shepard, Dugan Fife
Gametracker: NU SportsLive Stats

You can also Chat in the New Purple Reign Free Chat room


Statistics from the University of Michigan official site
Links are to the original story source of the quotes
You can send your comments or "back door" information
to Coach Roy
or on AIM: CoachRoy74
Go Cats
Beat 'em All!
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Copyright 2006 by PurpleWildcats.com/Purple Reign
Quotes Copyright 2006 by original holder as noted

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