Nate Oats Opening Statement in San Diego
Tennessee is past Longwood and onto the Round of the 32 in the NCAA Tournament with 11-seed Michigan standing between the Vols and a Sweet 16 berth.
Tip-off is set for 5:15 p.m. ET on Saturday. Let’s take a look at the 2021-22 Michigan basketball team.
It’s been a turbulent season for Michigan basketball. The Wolverines opened the season ranked No. 6 in the AP poll and quickly became one of the biggest disappointments in all of college basketball.
Michigan dropped early season games against Seton Hall, Arizona, UCF and North Carolina while the Wolverines best out of conference win proved to be UNLV.
The Wolverines struggled to open Big 10 play too, opening the conference slate 1-3 including three straight losses in late December and early January.
That last paragraph may remind you of Tennessee, but Michigan never had the dramatic flip in success like the Vols did.
There was also the drama of the Big 10 suspending Michigan head coach Juwan Howard for the final five games of the regular season after an altercation with a Wisconsin assistant coach.
Michigan ended the regular season 17-13 (11-9 Big 10) and entered the Big 10 Tournament on the bubble. The Wolverines snuck in the tournament despite losing to Indiana in the first game of the conference tournament and used a comeback win over Colorado State to advance to the Round of 32.
Going back 11 games, Michigan is 6-5, alternating wins-and-losses every time out. If that trend continues, the Vols will head to the Sweet 16.
Where They Excel?
It starts on the offensive end where Michigan boasts the nation’s 19th best adjusted offensive efficiency.
It starts on the interior — we’ll get to that in a bit — where Michigan’s big men give them one of the nation’s best two-point offenses.
The Wolverines rank in the nation’s top 60 in two-point field goal percentage and while they aren’t a great three-point shooting team, they are capable — making 33.8% of their threes this season.
Tennessee is elite at getting steals and turning opponents over, but Michigan’s guards do a good job of taking care of the ball. Michigan ranks 50th in the nation in offensive steal percentage and 101st in offensive turnover percentage.
The Wolverines are a great rebounding team — particularly on the defensive end. Michigan ranks 34th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage and 77th in offensive rebounding percentage.
Where They Struggle?
Michigan is good at avoiding turning the ball over but is horrible at turning opponents over, ranking 336th nationally in defensive turnover percentage. That should bode well for Tennessee and make it a game that Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler can control.
Despite its size inside, Michigan struggles at defending the paint and rim. The Wolverines rank 206th nationally in two-point defense and just 201st in defensive block percentage.
Not turning opponents over and not defending the rim is a bad combination for a defense. That’s why the Wolverines rank 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency, a mark that’s better than just five SEC teams.
Offensively, Michigan is just average at getting to the free throw line despite the success of its bigs.
This matchup is basically a polar opposite of the Longwood matchup Thursday. While the Lancers didn’t play anyone taller than 6-foot-7, Michigan starts three players 6-foot-8 or taller and two players 6-foot-11 or taller.
It starts with those big men and specifically star sophomore Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson averages 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while boasting an improved three-point shot (31%) that allows him and Moussa Diabate to play at the same time.
Diabate — a five-star freshman — has had an up-and-down season but has the potential to go off, scoring in double-figures 12 times including a 28-point performance in a win at Iowa.
Eli Brooks leads the Wolverine’s backcourt, averaging 12.4 points per game. The scoring guard has scored 14 points or more in four straight games.
Michigan point guard DeVante Jones missed the Colorado State game with a concussion he suffered in the Big 10 Tournament, but Juwan Howard said Jones practiced today and is questionable for Saturday’s game.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said they’re preparing for Jones and expect him to play.
Michigan’s best three-point shooters are wings Caleb Houston (39%) and Terrance Willims II (38%).