Game 23: Wisconsin at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt


Who: Michigan (11-11, 4-6) vs. Wisconsin(17-5, 7-3)
: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: February 6th, 4PM
: MGoBlue, WWJ 950 AM/WTKA 1050 AM
: Pick em
Stats: Live TFS
Pomeroy Profile
First Match-up: Preview / Post game

Wisconsin’s consistent success in the Big Ten is tough to explain. Luckily, KJ hit the nail on the head in his MSU/Wisconsin preview earlier this week:

Take a team that went 10-8 in Big Ten play in 2009, subtract the team’s leading scorer and leading rebounder (two different guys), add two freshman role players playing a combined 21.1 minutes per game, and you get . . . a team that starts the season 13-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play

Now go ahead and knock the team’s new star out with an injury–a guy who had emerged as the team’s second leading scorer, top rebounder, and a legitimate contender for the conference player of the year.  Now, of course, you have . . . a team that still managed to win 3 of 5 games to find itself in a second-place tie in the Big Ten standings. [ed: Now 4 of 6]

My point?  The Wisconsin basketball team, as coached by Bo Ryan, defies rational analysis.  But we’ll give it a shot anyways.

In an era of sports that is dominated by super stars and glamour, Bo Ryan defies logic and keeps on winning games; that includes all 5 match-ups with Michigan head coach John Beilein. Beilein will look to finally knock off Wisconsin as he attempts to right the ship in Ann Arbor.

Michigan led the first match-up for 35+ minutes before crumbling down the stretch while Trevon Hughes and Rob Wilson took over. Michigan proved to themselves that they can play with the Badgers, who shot terribly in the first match-up, but nobody knows what sort of effort you will get from Michigan on any given night.

All things considered, this feels like one of those games where Michigan will come to play and remind us that they are actually capable of putting a good game together. It’s against a big name opponent, at home, on a Saturday afternoon, and on national television. Then again, if there is one thing that this team has taught us, it’s don’t assume anything.

Michigan is 1-4 since they knocked off UConn two weeks ago. Some of the games have been close but 1-4 is not good, no matter how you spin it. So why is Michigan struggling? Here are the two biggest reasons in my book:

  • Manny Harris is going through one of the worst stretches in his Michigan career. He not only missed one game due to suspension but he has played very poorly in the other four. He is  shooting 33% from the field (19 of 57) in his last four games and averaging more than 3 turnovers per contest.
  • Shooting. Michigan’s shooting numbers over the last five games are absolutely terrible. FG%: 36.6%, eFG%: 43.2%,2PFG%: 42.5%, 3pFG%: 29.4%. It’s really hard to win games when you shoot that poorly.

A game versus Wisconsin is unlikely to cure either of these problems. Manny Harris has traditionally struggled against the Badgers and the last time out Tim Jarmusz held Manny to 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting with 3 turnovers. Wisconsin also has one of the best defenses in the country (6th in KenPom adjusted efficiency). They hold their opponents to 43.5% 2point shooting and 45.2% eFG shooting overall.

For more on Wisconsin and their personnel, check out my preview of the last game (which was less than two weeks ago). Trevon Hughes is the guy that makes Wisconsin go and after that it’s a crap shoot as to who shoulders the load on any given day. Keaton Nankivil hit 7 of 8 triples at Purdue after making only 1 of 7 versus Michigan. Jordan Taylor, Jason Bohanon, and Rob Wilson have also all notched double digit performance since Leuer’s injury.

Each player in the Badger’s lineup is just barely dangerous enough that you can’t forget about them on the defensive end. To have a chance in this one, Michigan will have to match Wisconsin’s defensive intensity from start to finish. Because Nankivil is the only player in the Wisconsin rotation over 6-foot-6, DeShawn Sims should be called upon early and often. His 23 point (9 of 14 shooting) 13 rebound performance in Madison was the only reason Michigan had a chance to win.

After that it comes down to anyone else hitting shots. That hasn’t happened much this year so it’s tough to predict anything but a Wisconsin win. Pomeroy likes Wisconsin, 58-53, and gives Michigan only a 26% chance at the win on their home floor. I’ll take Wisconsin 64, Michigan 54. Let’s hear your predictions in the comments.

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  • gpsimms

    NO team in the country.

  • sweaty heartbreak


  • AG2

    Incredible, I’ve been talking about how much better D-Mo has gotten all season and this Amaker backer starts trolling.

    As for beating Wisconsin when they’re shooting that well, the objective is to prevent them from shooting that well. As a matter of fact, Keaton Nankavil shot 8-9 from 3 @ Mackey and they still managed to hold on.

    MR, if you want to rank your Big Ten Coaches go right ahead. Mine are:
    1. Tom Izzo
    2. Bo Ryan
    3. Bruce Webber
    4. Matt Painter
    5. John Beilein
    6. Tom Crean
    7. Tubby Smith
    8. Thad Matta
    9. Bill Carmody
    10. Todd Licklighter
    11. Ed Dechelis

  • Rick

    Bottom line – we’re not a good team and only have three players who belong in the Big 10, Manny, Sims and Morris. Manny and Sims are exhausted from carrying the entire team for the whole season. I thought that we looked like an exhausted and beaten team against Northwestern but also thought that may have been just a bump in the road. Today confirmed it. With the high hopes for this season some of my feelings could be frustration. It also shows what a miracle last season was. Today, it looked like the team just wants to get the season over with. Sadly, they’ll get their wish sooner than I expected.

  • maxwell’s demon

    I think there are only two coaches in the B10 that truly stand out amongst the rest: Izzo and Ryan. Painter has had great success but took over an equally successful program. Webber has had some excellent success but not quite as consistent as Izzo and Ryan. I think the jury is still out on Beilein and Crean. Matta and Tubby are good recruiters but haven’t shown to be great at the other part of the job.

  • MR

    AG2- One more recruiting class and Crean will dominate Beilien. Recruiting is a major part of coaching, Matta will have more success than Beilien. Carmody would give his right arm for Manny and Sims and still took both games (no excuse). I give Lickliter an incomplete, they will both have their rosters next year.

  • JimC

    I’m just going to expect we will suck again next year. Seriously. Then even the slightest improvement from the debacle that is this season will be like a pleasant surprise.

  • michigan hoops 4eva

    I agree with Rick, but I’ll just make one correction. Harris, Sims, and Morris are the only players on the roster that belong on a starting lineup in the big ten. I think Douglass and Novak would be amazing bench players to provide a spark.

    To me, Laval Lucas-Perry has been the biggest disappointment this year. He has been invisible in big ten play minus an amazing performance against Penn State. And don’t get me started on Anthony Wright and Zach Gibson.

    Bottom line: the team’s biggest weakness is just a lack of talent. Don’t blame Beilein; it’s always an uphill climb when you start one player above 6’5, zero players above 6’8, have one player off the bench that can score, and are a 3-point shooting team that can’t shoot 3’s.

  • AG2

    Well I’m not exactly impressed by Crean so far, and that includes his career at Marquette. A final four and D-Wade was nice but that’s not nearly enough for IU. Besides, once again, Beilein’s recruiting is getting underestimated. Two top 100 players next year and a top 50 guy in 2011. Crean’s class next season is weaker than Beilein’s

    That Matta can recruit, but his coaching is holding them back. Bruce Webber is a decent coach but what has he accomplished without Bill Self’s players? For all the talent he’s brought in, Tubby’s not as far along as Beilein is.

    I think we’ve seen what Lickliter can do, and that’s run off players.

  • I agree the major weakness is talent. Beilein has got to get better players. Trey Zeigler could be for Beilein what M. Cleaves was for Izzo. Sometimes just one player can turn a program around.

    Do you think history would be different if Cleaves went to UM instead of MSU?

  • Alex

    The team tried and that counts for something. As someone said earlier no team would have beaten Wisconsin today. They kept making shots at the very end of the shot clock. They had four shot clock violations which shows our defense was pretty good.

    I wish the outcome was different but maybe there was something to learn. Hopefully the team uses the last seven to get better and hopefully make some noise in the BTT.

    Things seem desperate. The season seems like it’s over. It isn’t quite yet. They need to bring the intensity they have shown in some games to every game they play from here on out.

    Go Blue!

  • Walt

    Steve Fisher used to say something like this regarding media opinions of his team: ‘You are not as good as they say you are, when they say you are good. Also, you are not as bad as they say you are, when they say you are bad.’

    I think that little bit of wisdom applies to this team. Coach Beilein has to get them to believe in themselves again.

  • Paul F.

    Wisconsin hit on everything even the dance team. I mean what a shooting performance. Unreal. They didn’t play bad defense. Manny’s shooting was down right lousy. Just a good old butt whoopin.

  • gpsimms

    well. im glad that wcha officials decided there should be no happiness in any michigan fan’s life since march, 2009.

  • Tweeter

    Took a little sabbatical from posting since I discovered that I was living my life on Not that there is anything wrong with that. In fact it only meant that I speant most of my time on

    thoughts on todays game: Wisky was awesome. I thought we played really solid D throughout the entire game. Not great D, but solid. There were a couple lapses but for the most part we made them take jump shots and many of them were contested. They just made everything. We were not going to win this game with the way they shot it.

    I really think this team has just lost all confidence in their offense. Guys are passing up looks they would have taken earlier in the year, guys are overpassing on drives instead of taking layups, even Manny cant seem to find the consistency he had earlier. The combination of the disappointing early season tourney, plus the shooting struggles, and the loss to MSU have killed the confidence. At this point I dont see it coming back unless they have one of those games were everything in the world goes in. Hmm, maybe they can talk to Wisconsin about that.

    It was once again a pretty lifeless crowd today. I dont know if any students who go to games read these comments, but if they do, they really need to figure out some cheers to get other fans involved. Jumping and yelling is great, but its not going to get fifty year old ladies out of their seats. I hate to say it, but the Go team color one, Go team color two, chant that State does is really good for getting an entire crowd involved. I dont think we should do a Go BLue, Go Maize chant. But maybe some more Go – Blue chants or something more inventive, would be good.

    Amir Williams was at the game. did not hear any chants of his name. I think Carlton Brundidge was there as well but not sure on that.

  • Stuart Douglass–zero pts. Zack Novak–three pts. People who are down on Manny may fail to understand how much pressure lies on his shoulders in a situation where GAME AFTER GAME 3/5 of the offense produces NOTHING. Believe me, Beilein wants Harris back.

    As many people said, Darius Morris was one of the few bright spots today. Having a confident player who can dribble-penetrate next year might be the difference between disaster and mediocrity. D. Simms, meanwhile, is a soldier in the army of the lord.

  • Old Style

    Next year might not be as bad as most of us think if Morgan, Mclimans, and Smotrycz (possibly Horford) can provide us a front court instead of Sims with 4 guards.

  • jim-e-p

    The talent level on this team is very weak. Stu, LLP,Novak, and Douglas would get as many minutes on the ’84-85 team (honored at halftime) as Steve Stoyko did. Beilein is not the trouble fundamentally, though this season has raised some doubts. His almost pathological unwillingness to put any size on the court is odd, and his lack of fire seems to spill over to the team, barring a C.J. Lee type firebrand on the court. If Douglass, LLP, or Novak (at the 4) are starting next year expect the same results. Legit starters do more in their second seasons than timid, fear-ridden, play with averages below seven points and shooting percentages lower than Ichiro’s BA. I would favor a starting lineup something like this next year: Morris, Manny (at the 2), Novak or Hardaway, and the best two of Smotrycz, Morgan, and McLimans at the bigs. We desperately need more talent and size on the floor. Someone who could really shoot would also help. Any chance we will ever again see a UM guard who can pull up and hit the mid-range jumper? I know they are out there…every other team has one.

  • michigan hoops 4eva

    I agree, Mattski. Manny and Sims have a HUGE weight to lift on their shoulders. Manny’s had a rough few games, but no one else steps up to help out, especially LLP, Novak, and Douglass.

    The one beacon of hope I’m seeing is Darius Morris; he has improved a lot this year in my opinion, cut down on the mental mistakes and has some offensive moves. I like his potential down the line.

    I’m not so confident that Morgan, McLimans, Smotrycz, and Horford will be adequate replacements next year for Sims…Sims is the best player on this year’s team in my opinion.

    Let’s hope for Trey Zeigler, Jon Horford, continued improvement by the young guys, Manny Harris coming back, and maybe a little luck on our sides. GO BLUE

  • michigan hoops 4eva

    Oh, and I’m a student and in the Maize Raige and I agree that the chants and cheering need to be improved. Today the crowd was quiet, but I think everyone’s hope was completely deflated by Wisconsin’s first half shooting clinic.

    When Bohanon hit that 3 at the buzzer at the end of the first half, you could hear everyone’s energy deflate.

  • Erik

    I agree about the talent being weak, but let’s think about it for a second:

    Ant Wright and Gibson were Amaker holdovers. Can’t blame Beilein for them.

    Cronin and Morgan got injured. With even one healthy, we’d have a much different lineup, with Novak playing his natural position. Can’t blame this on Beilein.

    I agree about LLP being the biggest disappointment. At the time, I think Beilein had to take him to add depth last year. However, from his highlight tapes I really expected more out of him. Definitely disappointing.

    Next year will be much different and improved. I can’t believe the people that still blame Beilein. He puts his guys in position to make open jump shots, but they just can’t do it. That’s on the players, not Beilein. On defense, well it didn’t even matter today. When a team makes those shots that Wisconsin was making….it doesn’t matter.

  • AG2

    It always hurts to know big time recruits were in the house to watch us get stomped.

  • RB

    Small ball sucks.

  • fresh

    what recruits were at the game?

  • Carlton Brundidge and Amir Williams were both in Crisler.

  • AG2

    “I have no idea (when he’ll be ready to play) I do a lot of things but hurting a kid so it affects him the rest of the year is not one of ’em”

    That was Tom Izzo referring to Kalin Lucas. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks Wisconsin is dirty.

  • Brad

    weird…cause I think MSU plays a more dirty than Wiscy…MSU defense reminds me of a rugby game…at least wiscy seems to be in position instead of just grabbing moving players…

  • Alex

    I saw players at Fifth Quarter tonight.

  • Erik

    I didn’t see the Lucas injury. Was it dirty? The article I read said Lucas was up in the air and came down on someone’s foot. Usually that’s pretty accidental.

  • JimC

    Erik i’ve seen talk on either side of that injury. Stoney said on the Ticket 97.1 that he thought it was dirty, and Stoney still knows more about sports than most other folks know.

  • intrpdtrvlr

    Misread, AG2. I don’t think that was a swipe at Wisconsin by Izzo. I think what he meant was “I’m not going to put Lucas into the line-up before he’s ready and risk tweaking the ankle and injuring it further so it effects him the rest of the year.” That’s the right read.

    Some MSU fans will swear up and down it was dirty. Some will call them delusional. I’m in the latter camp.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Erik – It wasn’t remotely dirty. Hadn’t even cross my mind until I read your post.

  • Junderground

    As for the frontcourt next year, I expect Smotrycz to be a prime contributor–probably a starter all year. It’s hard to know what to expect from Morgan except that he’ll get minutes. McLimans will probably average less than five minutes per game and won’t play in close games. I expect us to land one more scholy player, and he could be big. A frontcourt of Horford, Smotrycz and Morgan would give us some great games and some off games, but those guys could embody *part* of a pretty good team in upcoming years–if Brundidge and Hardaway pan out and if Morris develops apace, you’d have an up-and-down team that would ultimately put quite a few wins on the board. But it’s more a matter of which big recruits we can bring in in ’11-12 and ’12-’13. We absolutely need at least one more four-star player and two to three three-stars.

  • AG2

    I’d heard that Bo Ryan teaches his players to put a foot underneath a guy coming down and that’s what I thought Izzo was referring to.

    I’d like to know what Beilein has in mind if he can’t bring in either Williams or Plumlee fo 2011. Those are the kind of recruits that can legitimize a program.

  • KevinTh

    Michigan couldn’t win the MAC this year. Just pathetic!

  • Brad

    wow that would be low if true… what coach in their right mind could encourage that?

  • Old Style

    I don’t believe Ryan teaches that. That sounds like a Spartan conspiracy theory. Izzo’s big men “beat the s*** of your opponent then flop when they bump you back” is the hardest thing for me to watch in the Big Ten.

  • Brad

    agreed old style…cant stand that “d”…i actually am impressed with how wisconsin plays d…position over physicality

  • intrpdtrvlr

    AG, even if Izzo believes that I doubt he’d say it publicly unless it was egregious. Again, I think it was meant to suggest Izzo doesn’t want to hurt Lucas by re-inserting him too early. I still don’t think it was dirty. Stuff happens.

    Oh, and I don’t come here to debate UM fans, but I don’t really think you can call MSU serial floppers. That just doesn’t hold up from watching their games. I don’t see MSU players on the floor all the time. Green is even drawing fewer charges this year.
    MSU’s “D” is something you can complain about as an opponent, for sure. Flopping? No way.