Game 24: Michigan at Connecticut Preview

Dylan Burkhardt

: Michigan  (15-8) at Connecticut (21-1)
: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
: Saturday, February 6th, 6 PM
: UConn by 17.5
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, UConn KenPom Profile
: MGoBlue, WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050)
Opposition Blog:
Matt’s UConn Blog (a lot of quality info)

Michigan is back on the road to take on the #1 UConn Huskies. Connecticut has been rolling through the Big East, after their opening loss to Georgetown the Huskies have rattled off 10 straight victories. Before citing Michigan’s earlier success against top 5 teams I think it is important to realize that Connecticut is a different breed of beast. The Huskies are a big strong team that dominates on both ends of the court and have one of the top big men in the country in Hasheem Thabeet.

UConn is a statistical monster; their defensive efficiency (85.8) is 7th in the country while their offensive efficiency (118.8) is 5th. There is really only one weakness across the board, forcing turnovers. UConn’s free throw rate of 48.4 ranks fourth in the country but their opponents average free throw rate is only 18.1, tops in the country.

The Huskies offense relies on two point shots and getting to the free throw line. UConn shoots only 22.7% of their shots from behind the arc, one of the lowest percentages in the country (338th). They shoot 52.5% on two point field goal attempts and 36.3 from three point range for a 52.9 eFG%. Connecticut also does a solid job holding onto the ball (17.7% TO) and a great job on the glass (40.4 OR%).

UConn has the #1 effective height rating by Ken Pomeroy (linked to description of the metric) of any team in the country. Most of this can be attributed to one man: Hasheem Thabeet. However the Huskies are long across the board, comparing starting lineups by height is scary for Wolverine fans (especially when you consider that Sims is more like 6-7 and Novak is more like 6-4):

C: 7-3, 6-9, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2
M: 6-8, 6-5, 6-5, 6-3, 5-11

Michigan’s effective height ranks 211th and they have struggled with big teams all year long. Sims and Novak are both giving up around half a foot in height to the man they are guarding while Manny Harris is stuck guarding a 6-foot-7, 240 pound machine who averages a double double.

UConn Personnel:

  • Hasheem Thabeet: 30.5 mpg, 13 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4 bpg. The 7-foot-3 big man is a legit player of the year candidate and completely alters the game with his size.
  • Stanley Robinson: A mid season addition who served a suspension working in a junk yard before returning to the team. The 6-foot-9 wing man has struggled a bit since his return and only played 2 minutes at Louisville after picking up some quick foul trouble. UConn went with the three guard look and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little of that Saturday.
  • Jeff Adrien: Adrien is another monster on the wing, the 6-foot-7 243 pound wing averages 14.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, and 1 bpg while shooting 53.6% from the field. Adrien hasn’t made a three point bucket all year.
  • Jerome Dyson: Dyson averages 13.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 3.3 apg but he only shoots 32.3% from long range.
  • AJ Price: Price is the main three point threat for the Huskies, averaging 12.2 ppg and 4.3 apg while shooting 42.3% from long range.
  • Kemba Walker: The backup point guard averages 9.2 ppg in 23.7 minutes and also shoots over 40 percent from long range.
  • Depth: UConn doesn’t have a deep rotation, the other two guys who get playing time are Craig Austrie and Gavin Edwards.

How do you beat UConn? Only the Hoyas have done it and the catalyst in their upset was turnovers. Georgetown forced UConn to turn the ball over on 27% of their possessions and rattled UConn from the start. You have to remember that Georgetown isn’t short on height either; Greg Monroe is another premiere big man that could match up with Thabeet.

The key for Michigan is going to be to spread the Huskies out and force Thabeet away from the basket. Luckily they have the right guy for the job in DeShawn Sims. If Sims can hit a few perimeter jump shots early on it will at least pull Thabeet out of the key a little bit. I don’t think that driving right at Thabeet and trying to get him in foul trouble is the answer because he is just too good of a shot blocker.

Defensively Michigan needs to bring the same kind of intensity they played with Thursday night. I’m sure Michigan will try some 1-3-1 zone to try and counteract UConn’s size but the zone hasn’t been very effective lately. It will be all hands on deck with CJ Lee, Jevohn Shepherd, and Zack Gibson probably getting a solid chunk of minutes.

The only positive is that this game will help Michigan’s RPI even if they lose. Michigan’s strength of schedule will continue to rise over the last month of the season and hopefully that helps them out on Selection Sunday. There are several key differences between this game and Michigan’s earlier upsets: it is on the road, there is no matchup advantage for Michigan to exploit, and UConn is huge. This is one of those games where Michigan needs to make a ridiculous number of three pointers to even stay in the game.

On a side note, for those of you wondering how this game ended up on the schedule, here is Beilein’s explanation:

“We wanted a second half game. We said that if we end up going to the Coaches vs. Cancer (finals), we are really crowded with exams (in the fall semester). We felt that second semester we have two bye weeks (in conference), let’s put it in there. Unfortunately, the Big Ten scheduled a Thursday game (against Penn State), it should have been a Tuesday or Wednesday game, but once it was scheduled we couldn’t change it.”

Thoughts, in-game discussion, and predictions are encouraged in the comments. A couple site notes too:

  • The server seems to be running much better. There were issues with Internet Explorer as well but I think I fixed them. E-mail me if you still have problems.
  • Plus/Minus is on break for the rest of the season if you didn’t figure it out yet. I just don’t have time to do it for every game, especially with so many conference games.
  • Next week is MSU week and there are a couple great features and posts on deck.

Pre-Game Reading:

    Manny makes the list
  • UConn Motivated To Stay On Top
    Fans are camping out…
  • Welcome to first place
    UConn moves into first place after USF knocks off Marquette. Beilein was 1-4 against UConn at WVU. Adrien on Michigan:
    “We’ve got to be prepared for back-door cuts and three-point shooting. They play four guards. I have to step up defensively and guard some perimeter dudes.”
  • They gotta hold on to those rebounds… Keep getting knocked out from behind.

  • Adam

    What a PASS!

  • They aren’t going to give us a call driving on Thabeet… That is just how it is going to be, we have to adjust.

  • BL11

    Thabeet is being physical and they are letting it go (not complaining because they should play through it) but him being physical is bad for us. Need some shooters to step up now.

  • And this is the UConn run…

  • BL11

    If the uconn run puts them up 4 (or 5) though we arent dead. We have to create our own run now. Need a back cut or a 3 bigtime.

  • Avery Queen

    i think it’s grady time personally

  • BL11


  • Need to get the three point stroke going. Haven’t hit one this half

  • Giddings

    Yeah that’s really the difference… if we make just 2 of our 6 three attempts this half we’re right there.

  • BL11

    Perfect time for one dylan…down 8 and we have to chuck something up with 1 sec on the clock now. You can see that UCONN came out in the 2nd a little more focused/active. They are awake now.

  • Wow. Manny for three. Those are the shots where you say no no no .. .YES

  • Mason

    Hehe…Stu’s got a girlfriend, Stu’s got a girlfriend…

  • BL11

    Clutch time…..who wants it more right now. Our threes are teasing right now…in and outs

  • Dylan

    Needed one of those three pointers. UConn up 4 going to the line, it’s going to be tough from here on out.

  • Mith

    Dang, three chances to cut the lead from 57-53 and we couldn’t get it done.

  • Props to Stu for his effort. He has stepped up huge these last few games. Still need a miracle to pull this out though.

  • Mith

    Stu Douglass has made a believer of me today. He obviously has confidence in his shot. I’d love to see the night when he and Novak are knocking it down at the same time.

  • Game time. Great effort today though.

  • Mith

    Michigan 9-27 on 3’s. It’s surprisingly they were even able to keep it close.

  • Jblue

    Too bad we couldn’t steal this one. Hate to say it, but the committee won’t remember us playing UConn close.

  • Maybe not but this team is playing good basketball right now. That is two games in a row where they brought defensive intensity. I think they can take some confidence from this effort.

  • Mith

    Great game today. Sure its a loss, but its a 8 point loss on the road against the #1 team in the country. A team you don’t match up well with at all. There’s no shame in that.

    If the Blue can play with this kind of intensity the rest of the way, then they’ll get the wins they need to get into the tourney.

  • Avery Queen

    stu is god

  • Giddings

    Novak, Peedi, CJ, and LLP were a combined 0-13 from three for the game… in order to win this game, we needed basically EVERYTHING to go right, and that was the only thing that really held us back.

    Let’s hope Stu didn’t use up all his great shooting today! We could really use a 6-8 performance on Tuesday…

  • Jay

    Team showed alot of heart..this team with a PG who could penetrate and actually put fear into the D that he can score would be scary. No way they could grow 4inches over night, but showed fight. Couple dumb turnovers early in the 2nd half hurt, along with Peedi and his love for the back iron.

  • Other Matt

    Hey, I’m proud as hell of our team. What really hurt were (1) that stretch where we had 3 possessions to cut it down further than 4, and (2) not getting one or two of those 3s that were down and popped out. I know this is the Beilein system, but if we just hit a couple of those we’ve got a chance to win at the end. We all know that we can lose to anybody, but I really think we can beat anybody too.

    All in all, a solid effort that hopefully can help us down the stretch in the Big Ten.

  • AG2

    The key from here on out is to not start out slow by hitting too many 3s. Backdoor cuts should be the order of the day vs. MSU.

  • UM should have won this game, it was right there for the taking and no one other than Stu and Manny did anything!!!!!! Im so pissed right now. Novak, LLP, Gibson, Sims, if anyone of those guys would have done anything in the 2nd half UM wins this game. Ill say this, when Beilein gets some real shooters to go along with Stu, UM will win a National Championship. Unfortunately hes got a bunch of wannabe shooters. LLP and Novak ???????? Looks like they would accidently make one once in awhile..Sheesh

  • BJ

    Give Kelvin another chance please! I’m sure he’s really really sorry for going under one screen. Grady can stroke it better than Dave, CJ, and Zach… I just don’t get it

  • Did Grady play a single minute today?

  • Gibson and Sims need to stay down low! They have proven that they cannot shoot well enough to shoot from the outside. Its just embarrasing that college players can shoot so poorly. I literally can shoot better than everyone on the roster excluding Stu.

  • All in all a great effort. The difference was senior leadership versus a developing team. In the clutch, every time they needed it, UConn made the 3 or the free throws. It’s what a great team, the number 1 team does. It is what we will do consistently as we get an older team on the court.

    The committee will definitely remember this. It was national TV and they do look at scores in both wins and losses when evaluating a team. Especially when it comes down to the final few teams in. A single digit loss to UConn looks a lot better than a blowout of Indiana or Rutgers.

    UM is close to the resume for a bid so far. If we can just win a couple more than we lose over the last bit here we’ll get a bid. Besides, anyone who really thought we’d be in this position this year raise your hand… (crickets chirping). Same here. We’re ahead of schedule, enjoy it!

  • MaizeNBlue2

    Very impressive effort. The moment that stands out to me (other than the 3 straight possessions to get it under 4 when it was 57-53), was the Douglas layup that rolled out in the first half. We would have been up 10, instead, I believe it ended up being a 7-point swing.

    I’m really proud of our guys. I wish Sims and Gibson would play with that kind of intensity every time out. They showed real toughness, regardless of the results. Yeah, they didn’t knock down some shots, but they played with toughness for sure. They weren’t intimidated by Thabeet.

    If this team plays with this amount of intensity all the time, we’ll be in good shape for the rest of the year. Go Blue and take care of State this week! Very proud of the effort, I just can’t state it enough. Go Blue!

  • BJ

    Gibson was definitely intimidated by Thabeet. He dribbled out a few orebs instead of going up strong with it

  • jmblue

    I missed the game. I can only say that I was shocked to watch the highlights and see that we had an 8-point lead in the first half. You can’t complain too much about a single-digit loss at the #1 team in the country. I expected far worse. Good effort, now let’s take out Sparty.

  • MaizeNBlue2

    Gibson was not intimidated. He made a couple of smart plays by not forcing it. He was in there battling, which is more than you can usually say. He was aggressive going after rebounds. There’s a difference between being intimidated and making smart decisions and not forcing it.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. The overall effort was there, and it’s what we need the rest of the year. I believe we can agree on that much. Go Blue!

  • Giddings

    Looks like our RPI got a 3 or 4 spot bump after the loss today (now 46). SOS is now 15th in the nation, and that should get even better after Tuesday.

  • AG2

    Now, does this team have enough left in the tank to handle MSU? Let’s hope the home crowd provides them with enough energy.

    Plus, I think they can beat Wisconsin on the road if they keep playing like this, provided the refs call the game decently. I really feel like Wisconsin’s home field advantage is derived from exploiting the Big Ten’s poor officiating.

  • Giddings

    I know we’ve gone over this, but I think it’s getting more and more simple… there are 3 ways for us to get in:

    – Win 4 of our last 7 in the regular season, then win our first round game in the BTT (assuming we’re a 6/7 seed).
    – Win 3 of our last 7 in the regular season, then make it to the semis or finals of the BTT (two or three wins).
    – Win the BTT.

  • Dave

    ill never say anything bad about stu ever again ……..quite impressive …….zach gibs played real well i thought as well, wish he would play with that much intensity all the time………..overall i was very pleased with the performance and thought that was a hell of a game for michigan

  • Agreed Giddings. Let’s look at the remaining schedule:

    Host MSU – taking emotion out, likely loss.

    At NW – beat them once, will do it again. Likely win.

    Host Minn – They are erratic but have lost 4 of 6 and one of the wins was a 4 point win over Indiana. I have to think we defend to home on this one. Likely win.

    At Iowa – after starting 10-3, Iowa is 3-8 in conference and has lost 7 of its last 9. Likely win.

    Host Purdue – not saying we can’t win it, but likely loss.

    At Wisconsin – Wisconsin just ended a 6 game losing streak. When we play them it will in the middle of a 3 game road trip for them. They will have played at IU and MSU before playing us and then have to go to Minn. I think they will be tired and they do have a worse conference record than ours. Call that our 4th win.

    At Minnesota – They will be demoralized having blown an NCAA berth. Call it a possible win.

    So, yeah, I think we get 4 wins. 3 minimum. Toss in 2 BTT tourney wins and we make the dance.

  • MaizeNBlue2

    Chris, I don’t think I’d say “likely” loss against MSU. I’d throw that into a toss-up category. We just went on the road and played the #1 team in the country. They were set up perfectly to exploit our weaknesses. We lost by 8.

    I think between, it being a home game, and the fact that we seem to be playing good ball right now, we can definitely win it.

    I have a hard time with predictions, because when we play like we’re capable of playing (UCLA/Duke/UConn), we can play with any team in the country. It’s a comfort knowing we can win any game left on our schedule, but it’s up to the guys to come out, play with the intensity necessary and do it.

    I may analyze the schedule more closely and try some predictions later on. In the meantime, Go Blue!

  • Paul

    Stu is Da Man! I mean wheres that shooting touch been. Need alot more of that. I thought they’d get blown out. 8 points isn’t bad. Ticked me off when they were down 4 they couldn’t close the deal. Just think too if Shep. wouldn’t of got into foul trouble.

  • Chris

    “Give Kelvin another chance please! I’m sure he’s really really sorry for going under one screen. Grady can stroke it better than Dave, CJ, and Zach… I just don’t get it.”

    All three of them are MUCH better defenders. I love Kelvin, but this game was about keeping them from racing up and down the court and scoring at will, and Kelvin hasn’t proven he can do that as well as the other three you mentioned.

  • I can agree with that MaizeNBlue2. We can win that game Tuesday. No doubt. If we do, I think we’re in the tourney. If not, I don’t think it’s the end. I was just looking at MSU who seems to be hot as heck right now and has the same kind of senior leadership that UConn does. They tend to not lose games.

    It is exciting as hell to see us already competing with the top of the top. Tourney or not, I am proud as heck of this team and their fighting spirit. Even when the shots weren’t falling in some games, they never gave up. They still fought to the bitter end. We NEVER saw that with Amaker or Ellerbe. Coach B is to be commended for this season and with the kids we have coming in, the best is yet to come.

    Still, I intend to scream my lungs out at the TV just in case somehow the TV sends that scream back to UM and gives them that small spark they need!