Who: Michigan (2-0) vs. Creighton (2-1)
The lights are finally on. Michigan has rolled through Northern Michigan and Houston Baptist but those games were little more than glorified exhibition games. We have waited patiently for this season and it’s finally here. This weekend will provide fans with a chance to see Michigan take on some very tough competition.
Michigan’s first game against Creighton provides an interesting test. The Jays are a perennial Missouri Valley power house and, judging by their fans behavior, a team that is relishing the opportunity to make a name for themselves.
John Beilein and Creighton head coach Dana Altman have gone head to head before, in a first round 2005 NCAA tournament game. Beilein’s Mountaineers came away victorious, 63-61, thanks to a blocked three point shot and break away dunk in the closing second. In a game that featured plenty of threes and few free throws, the shocking number was the turnovers. West Virginia turned the ball over on 26% of their possessions, an incredibly high number for a Beilein led team.
Creighton lost MVC player of the year Booker Woodfox to graduation but the cupboard is far from dry. The Jays are incredibly deep, with 10 players averaging more than 12 minutes per game and five scoring in double figures.
In the backcourt, P’Allen Stinnett is averaging 12.6 points and 4 assists per game. Junior college transfer Darryl Ashford has given the Jays a wing scorer but they Jays also have several three point threats. Kaleb Korver and freshman Ethan Wragge are both deadly outside shooters who can’t be left open.
Similarly to Michigan, the Jays run a perimeter oriented offense. They aren’t a great rebounding team and love to shoot three pointers. They also have begun to implement some aspects of the dribble drive offense that John Calipari made famous.
Creighton has a very small lineup and this could be one of the first games where Michigan might actually have a size advantage. The main low post presence is 6-foot-9 junior Kenny Lawson who is averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds per game. Wayne Runnels is a 6-foot-6 forward who leads the Jays in rebounds with just over 7 per game.
For more on Creighton’s personnel, make sure to check out my Q&A with The White and Blue Review.
With two teams that are so reliant on the three point shot, shooting is obviously going to be huge. It’s always interesting to see how both teams react to an early start time in a smaller gym. With Creighton’s various styles of defense it will also be interesting to see whether Michigan is able to hold onto the ball as well as they have early this year (TO% under 10%).
The biggest advantage for Michigan is that I’m not sure that Creighton has anyone that can guard DeShawn Sims or Manny Harris. They have plenty of bodies to run at Harris but no elite level stopper. Kenny Lawson is big but he should have trouble with DeShawn’s inside outside presence. Because of these tough match-ups, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Creighton play around with several defenses.
Have a great Thanksgiving and Go Blue. Thoughts and predictions are welcome in the comments.