After the high of the old fashioned whooping Marquette gave Vanderbilt, the start to the Howard game seemed like a real low. There was sloppy play, abundant turnovers, stalled offense, and too many second chances for Howard. It took some time, but Marquette eventually settled down and took control of the game. Hannie and JJJ were the most impressive contributors, but newcomers Reinhardt, Howard, and Hauser all made statements as well. The newbies went a combined 8-10 from deep, though it was slightly dampened by the freshmen’s seven turnovers. If anything, the game was possibly a good measuring stick for Marquette’s next opponent, Michigan.
The Wolverines played Howard a few days before Marquette. Similar to the Golden Eagles, Michigan seemed befuddled by Howard’s unusual zone. It took them a little bit longer to take control of the game. Howard was down only four points with about 12 minutes to go before Michigan went on a run. The Wolverines ended up winning by 18. If the transitive property of basketball is real, then Marquette is 14 points better than Michigan. Unfortunately, that’s not how basketball works. Michigan will be a much tougher test than either Vanderbilt or Howard and has a very good chance of beating Wojo’s Warriors.
Probable Starters (15-16 stats):
1: Derrick Walton Jr: 6-1 190 lb JR PG: 33.6 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .377 FG%, .387 3P%
2: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: 6-4 190 lb JR SG: 27.8 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .458 FG%, .365 3P%
3: Zak Irvin: 6-6 215 lb SR SF: 32.9 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .407 FG%, .298 3P%
4: Mark Donnal: 6-9 240 lb RSJR PF: 19.4 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.7 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .575 FG%, .303 3P%
5: D.J. Wilson: 6-10 240 lb RSSO PF: 6.6 mpg, 2.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.4 bpg, 0.4 tpg, .474 FG%, .333 3P%
Duncan Robinson: 6-8 215 lb RSJR PF
Moritz Wagner: 6-11 240 lb SO PF
Xavier Simpson: 6-0 180 lb FR PG
Ibi Watson: 6-5 190 lb FR SG
Sean Lonergan: 6-5 210 lb RSJR SF
Jon Teske: 7-0 245 lb FR C
Brent Hibbitts: 6-8 210 lb RSFR SF
Fred Wright-Jones: 5-11 170 lb SO PG
Andrew Dakich: 6-2 190 lb SR PG
Austin Davis: 6-10 240 lb FR C (Likely Redshirt)
Charles Matthews: 6-6 190 lb SO SG(Redshirt)
- The star player to watch for on Michigan is their point guard Derrick Walton Jr. Through two games, he is leading the Wolverines with 16.5 points, 3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. If the first two games are any indication, he hasn’t changed his style much from previous seasons. Walton was near automatic from deep last season with 63 three pointers with 38.7% accuracy. His 2P FG% left a lot to be desired, making only 36.6% of shots inside the arc. This season he has been even more accurate from three, making 7 out of 14, but has had no luck from closer range. He has only attempted 5 2P FGs and made only 1 of them. If he’s going to be successful against Marquette, he will need to find a way to penetrate without falling victim to the quick hands of Traci Carter and Jajuan Johnson (he already has 6 turnovers on the season). On the other side of the ball, he makes a living picking pockets. His steal % was second in the Big 10 last season. Marquette has kept the turnovers low so far, but Walton will be their first true defensive menace.
- Zak Irvin is the most well rounded player on this year’s Michigan squad. After a dominant sophomore year, Irvin became more of distributor as a junior. He saw most of his stats fall though he racked up an impressive 3.1 assists a game from the wing. Most concerning for Michigan fans was the regression of his three point shot. He went from 77 makes and 35% accuracy to only 48 and 30%. This season hasn’t seen much improvement as he’s gone 1 for 8 in his first two contests. He’s made up for this by using his size and strength to bully past weaker defenders and get into open space for easy buckets. He is second on the team with 13 points per game.
- One of the biggest early story lines for Michigan has been the emergence of D.J. Wilson. Wilson was a WAY back of the rotation player for Coach Beilein just a season ago, averaging 6.6 minutes in only 24 appearances for the Blue and Maize. It was looking like Michigan would continue to run the 4 out, 1 in offense with Mark Donnal holding down the post. Instead, Wilson has bullied his way past starter Duncan Robinson and has earned starter level minutes alongside Donnal. It’s two games, against inferior competition, but he has been dominant on the boards. He grabbed 14 of them against IUPUI and 8 against Howard. He didn’t get into double figures on the scoreboard, so it is unlikely he will be a scorer going against the like of Luke Fischer.
- Speaking of Duncan Robinson, he may not be getting starter minutes, but he is still a very dangerous weapon. He is a stretch four in the truest sense of the position. His 95 long balls were good for third in the B1G last season and his 45% accuracy was top 10. He was rarely seen within 15 feet of the bucket and then he usually only took wide open jumpers or layups. Marquette will need to play in the jersey type defense on him. What has limited his minutes was most likely his defense. He is a net negative in a man defense and often looked lost in Beilein’s patented 1-3-1 zone. He’s most likely to match up with Katin Reinhardt, so Marquette will look to their 5th year senior to take advantage when Robinson is in the game.
- The last player of note is starting two guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, or MAAR for short (and yes, we do say that with a pirate accent). MAAR doesn’t have any stats that would wow you, but he was a confident and efficient 4th scoring option for the Wolverines last season. With no starters departing (who played the whole season), MAAR will be able to return to that role and should excel even more. He has the ability to step back and hit a three but what he really brings is ball control and slashing ability. MAAR’s turnover% of 8.6 was top 10 in the B1G last season. MAAR doesn’t make many mistakes and will unlikely start to, even against the high pressure defense they are likely to face on Thursday.
There are three stats that defined Michigan’s success last season: three point shooting, personal fouls, and turnovers. They kept the first one high and the second two low. The Wolverines were in the top 10 in the entire nation for these three statistics a seasons ago, and return most of the key players from that team. While they weren’t the most accurate from three (38% as a team, good for top 40), they were not afraid to let them fly. They weren’t quite as reliant on the three in their first two games this season, but they are likely to return to it once they face their first quality defense. Marquette’s first two victories were defined by forcing a lot of turnovers. Michigan only gave up 9.7 turnovers per game a season ago, 6th best in the nation. Despite this, it is still in Marquette’s best interest to extend the defense and turn this into a track meet. Marquette has a lot more depth at guard than Michigan does. They really only have five total guards on the roster and the two true freshmen haven’t looked ready in their first couple of games. Even if they are not forcing turnovers, wearing down Walton Jr, MAAR, and Irvin could give them the advantage in the second half. They will have to avoid giving up open threes. The closeouts looked a little slow in the first two games and while Vanderbilt and Howard were missing, Michigan won’t be. Where Michigan struggled last year was drawing fouls and interior defense. The Wolverines were in the bottom third of Division 1 in fouls drawn, to be expected with a jump shooting team. This is great news for Fischer, who will hopefully be able to continue his low post domination. Though Michigan has a lot of post players, none were very good last season. Robinson is a potent offensive weapon but useless on defense. Donnal was the best of the lot but he is not would you call a rim protector. Wilson has emerged this season and tallied 5 blocks against IUPUI. It is doubtful that he will be able to do that against a much better Marquette team. Coach Wojo should dial up a lot of feed the Fisch type plays in the early going. Michigan also struggles to stop guard penetration. As long as Beilein tries to run a man defense, I would run guards right past theirs and straight at the bigs. Once they switch to the famous Beilein 1-3-1, shoot over the top of it. It should be a very competitive matchup, KenPom has these two teams separated by only a couple of spots. I think Marquette continues their NYC magic and pulls out a hard fought win.