Game 15: Northwestern at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt


Who: Michigan (8-6) vs. Northwestern (11-3)
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Jan. 10th, 2:30 PM EST
: MGoBlue, WWJ 950 AM/WTKA 1050 AM
: Michigan by 6
Stats: Live TFS
Pomeroy Profile


Michigan is in the midst of their first winning streak since beginning the season 3-0, and they welcome the Northwestern Wildcats into Crisler Arena for a Sunday afternoon matinee.

While many (myself included) were quick to write off Northwestern’s season after Kevin Coble was sidelined by a preseason injury, Northwestern kept chugging and has even made an appearance in the top 25. Northwestern is 11-3 with wins over Notre Dame, Iowa State, at North Carolina State, and Stanford. They might not have any signature wins but they have respectable losses (Butler, at Illinois, and Michigan State) and have handled their business.


John Shurna played with the USA U19 team this summer

John Shurna is the go to guy for the Wildcats. The 6’8” sophomore has embraced the void left by Coble’s injury and is averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Shurna can score inside and out and is one of the most versatile power forwards in the league.

Michael Thompson gives the Wildcats a scoring option in the backcourt. The 5’10” point guard leads Northwestern in minutes and scores 14.6 points and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 40% from three point range.

Similar to Michigan, Northwestern loves the three point shot. They shoot 49.7% of their shots from three point range (3rd nationally) and hit them at a respectable 35.2% clip. Michael Thompson, Alex Marcotullio (40%), and Drew Crawford (35%) are the Wildcats resident snipers but John Shurna and Jeremy Nash don’t hesitate to hoist up three point shots despite both shooting 31%.

On the offensive side of the ball, Northwestern looks like a traditional perimeter oriented team. They don’t turn the ball over (16.9% turnover rate), they shoot a lot of threes, and they don’t crash the offensive glass or shoot many free throws.

On defense, Northwestern is solid across the board but doesn’t really excel. The bad news for Michigan is that the best element of Northwestern’s defense is their ability to defend the three point shot, allowing opponents to shoot only 29.3% from three point range. 6’11 sophomore Luka Mirkovic starts down low for Northwestern and is their best defensive rebounder and also blocks a fair amount of shots.

Shurna is an extremely tough match-up for Novak because of Shurna’s size and versatile skill set. Jeremy Nash is a very capable wing defender who will likely draw the assignment of guarding Manny Harris. Harris had one of his best games of last year versus Nash in an overtime win in Evanston.

If Michigan learned something last week, it is that they need to play inside-out, get the ball to DeShawn Sims early and often and let him get comfortable. Defensively, Michigan needs to do their best to force Northwestern into bad looks, allowing shooters like Marcotullio and Thompson to get into a groove is just asking for a disaster.

Let’s hear your thoughts, predictions, and in-game discussion in the comments.

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  • AG2

    Its 53 – 49 as NW is ON FIRE from 3 in the 2nd half. Actually its 56-49 because you can assume that Marcotullio is good for at least 1 3 before the game is over

  • Drew

    Back on the ledge. And ready to seriously kill my douche bag spartan fan roommates. How do I hold back?

  • KDavis

    Manny and Stu both have the bad habit of leaving their feet when they pass. NW has been lights out this half, but we’ve hurt ourselves with too many careless turnovers. And our defense this half has…oh, the hell with it.

  • AG2

    NW on a 43 – 18 run.

  • Giddings

    Turnovers and threes… did we forget that this is Northwestern’s MO at halftime?

    Anybody at home, can you let us know what our turnover count is? And NW’s three point shooting in the 2nd half?

  • AG2

    I believe that’s 7 straight makes from 3 for NW.

  • Mark

    NW is currently 7 for 10 from 3 in the second half, and we have 14 TOs

  • AG2

    Sigh, Manny doing it all again.

  • steve

    14 turnovers for Michigan to 11 for NW

    They are shooting 7 for 10 from three this half.

    Still in this. Just get a W doesnt have to be pretty.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Burr hates us.

  • AG2

    Down 2 vs. NW and you’re taking 3s when you’re in the bonus? You want to try to out-run UNC, too?

  • MarcO

    Manny on a breakaway 1 on 2 with crawford in front of him. Crawford’s got 4 fouls, take him on Manny. Could’ve fouled him out right there.

  • MarcO

    Why hasn’t this team gone to the 1-3-1 all day? NW has been hurting us with their pressure, why not fight fire with fire?

  • Max in Chicago

    I can’t watch this team. My heart hurts.

  • AG2

    Its not every day you see Michigan get not just out-coached and out-talented by NW, but enough to negate a 9pt halftime lead?

  • sven

    And thats the season. I’d say I can’t wait for baseball to start but the Cubs are going to suck too.

  • Jay

    Team is not that good, end of story im done holding out hope. This team will be a rollercoaster ride all season. They may beat a few good teams this year in conference play, but they will lose to teams they should beat. I thought the bball season would be my reliever after the football season, but now I cant wait till August!!

  • maxwell’s demon

    Just 0 leadership.

  • JB

    this team has taken several years off my life

  • ChrisG

    Shouldn’t we have been able to handle their pressure since we basically practice against it everyday? Even when things are going well, we have the worst hands in the nation. I think we miss Grady. He would have been able to break that pressure by running past everyone.

  • JRose

    Just got home from BW’s. Just a few thoughts: WAAAAAAAY too many CARELESS turnovers! Any reson why LLP didn’t play more minutes…VERY confussing? Reminds me of last year when Grady would play well and then play 8 minutes the next game. I guess we haven’t had a lead all year so we didn’t know how to play with one. Douglass played well until the end…crucial turnover and missed layup! Well, on to the NFL…Colts-Ravens should be a great game!

  • Adam

    Douglass played well until the end? He led the team in turnovers and every pass he throws is a weak one handed pass. I don’t know where he learned that it was okay to throw one handed passes, but all of my old basketball coaches would’ve had my ass on the bench if I did that. He did not take very good care of the basketball

  • AG2

    I’m sorry to say this, but considering how calcified the top of the college basketball world has become, the corruption is just going to get worse. So many middle of the pack major conference teams are going to get more and more desperate for success and end up turning to shadier and shadier coaches? K-State would have fired Frank Martin by now if they weren’t so desperate to keep up with Kansas. I’m also convinced that someone is eventually going to give Steve Alford a call.

  • Giddings

    This team reminds me of Georgetown last year – talk about a roller coaster. The worst thing is that we had a pretty decent crowd today and they were very energized at times – it looked like Michigan basketball was getting back to being the “talk of the town” as it was going into the season. But after that 2nd half effort, we’ll go right back to the “upper bowl 3/4 empty” for all except the big games.

    At least this is basketball and not football. We can afford to lose 5 or 6 more games this year and still make it to the Tourney – sure, that means beating the likes of UConn, MSU, etc but we can’t afford to give up on them just yet.

  • Tweeter

    That one hurt. I thought in the first half we were pretty sloppy with the ball, but that second half was disgusting. Guys just were not strong with the ball in traffic and threw a ton of telegraphed passes. Combine that with some lazy D in the second half and thats that.

    Im still in it for this season, but now this team really has to beat some people.

  • Everybody needs to face the facts, this team is not going to the NCAA tournament. The talent and bench strength is not there. We may beat a Purdue or MSU, but this team is just too up and down.

  • Jeff

    I’m not surprised we lost to Northwestern, what made it especially rough was building the 17-pt lead then collapsing. After we built that lead, it almost looked like Northwestern was being tipped off to everything we were going to do both offensively and defensively. For awhile there we couldn’t throw a pass without it at least being tipped. Northwestern did a much better job making adjustments than we did today. It’s going to be a long season, I just hope this season is a temporary setback and nothing more. The sports gods have not been smiling on UofM lately.

  • stevefisher4life

    Don’t worry, we can still turn this around. Just beat UConn, edge past Bo Ryan in Madison, sweep Izzo and Tubby, and take care of business at Purdue.

  • AG2

    Between the decrease in the portion of 3pt shots being taken in college basketball, and the absolute BRICKFESTS we’re seeing from the free throw line in so many big time bsaketball matchups, there’s no other conclusion to draw: the college game is getting bigger. Can Michigan adapt? Can Beilein recruit size?

  • michigan fan

    Give NW credit in the 2nd half for making all those 3’s. Teams like NW and Michigan that are undersized must live and die by the 3. I didn’t see any coaching adjustments in the 2nd half when they applied all their defensive pressure that resulted in so many Michigan turnovers. I think the turnovers is is what lost us the game. Darius is perhaps too young and Stu is too slow. Could have used Grady. Maybe there was no coaching adjustments to make because we don’t have some one quick and experienced enough at the point? Very frustrating loss. This team should win a few more games but has no post-season hopes at all.

  • steve

    how many times do i have to say it…manny WILL be back for his senior year!!!!!! BALL DONT LIE!!!!!!!

  • Tweeter

    AG2 I think Beilein has tried, and continues to try, to recruit size. Its just unfortunate that none of that size panned out for this year (Cronin, Morgan, McLimans). And as important as it is to have some size, it is still far more important to have skill. Obviously, you cannot run 5 six foot guards out there and expect to win, but you also dont need a 6’8, 6’10, 6’10 front court to win. Talent is and will always be the key.

    Also, where is this decrease in portion of 3s coming from? Is that just based off last year and the first couple months of this year? I thought that the portion of threes attempted rose pretty much every year since the introduction of the the three point line. Then there was a slight drop last year with the instituting of the new line and another slight drop so far this year. But also, those two drops come after the highest point for a season in 08. So I think it is way to early to declare that suddenly the three point line is losing its effectiveness.

  • Sam

    I was so disappointed today in both Stu and LLP. Both handled the ball carelessly. I can’t look at the box score tonight, it is too frustrating, but I bet that Stu had at least 5 turnovers. Considering his usual great A/TO ratio, it was a very disappointing game from him. LLP also looked lost at times. I simply can’t figure out his inconsistency. Sims looks like he’s here for good, but we just didn’t feed him quite enough today. The zone was killing us the whole time. Too much dribbling right into a trap and then getting the ball tipped away in the second half. I don’t think you’ll ever see a Beilein team turn the ball over that much again in one game. I also thought that we held Shurna in check well for most of the game until he got open for a couple threes. And it is also clear that Darius Morris is finally improving quite quickly and is fast becoming our best man-to-man defender. I’d be really interested to see the +/- from today’s game. Certainly losses like this aren’t good for my blood pressure though.

  • Giddings

    Stu had 4 assists to 4 turnovers. LLP’s problem was his defense. Against a team like NW you can’t afford to go under screens, giving their shooters the brief window they need to knock down threes. Stu at least played great D, in my opinion at least – I don’t think I saw him go under any screens on the perimeter. The main culprits were LLP, Manny, and Vogrich.

  • Jim

    On the positive side I’ve really seen great growth in Darius’ game recently. He is gaining confidence every game and is playing much more assertively and much better as a result. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the starting line up before long.

    Gotta stay positive and support Beilein and the team. There’s still time to make a tourney run. Gonna have to shore up the ball handling, play solid defense for 40 minutes and get more tenacious in the paint.

    Beilein has made some mis-steps in the recruiting process. Things are awfully thin inside and with Peedi and Zach graduating, Jordan is going to be thrown into the fire without any interior help next year unless Beilein lands a transfer or a late signee. McLimans is a perimeter big as is Evan. Neither will help much inside imo.

  • Scott

    Dave Brandon, find us a new coach.

  • Kevin in GR

    This team (and last year’s too) just seems to prefer being the underdog vs being the favorite. Last year, there wasn’t much expected………This year from the get go, a lot has been expected. Look at their big wins (OSU this year, Duke/UCLA/Purdue last year) and bad losses (PSU, Indiana, Alabama). They even played well vs UConn last year. Beilein talked about leadership and people needing to step up…..I didn’t think at the start of the year it would be as big of a factor as it has been. Also, just think back going into the year when we thought we had so much depth……Now it’s pretty much a 6-7 man rotation. Beilein even said he wanted it “down” to a 9 man rotation….I don’t think that’s a problem anymore!

  • AG2

    As far as late signees down low, we really better hope that John Horford is still interested. We desperately, desperately need him.

    I also think that Beilein needs to think twice about recruiting guys like McLimans. You really can’t afford to recruit a guy who redshirts. Has there ever been a guy who made a meaningful contribution after redshirting? I guess the guy I’m thinking of at the moment is Tom Herzog.

  • JRose

    After a trip to te ER with my daughter I have realized things can be worse. Having said that, the boxscore is very ugly for a few guys. Just have to stay true to the Blue and support Coach B and the guys! Go Blue!

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