|Who: Utah (6-2) at Michigan (6-2)|
|Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
|When: Friday, December 10th, 6:30 PM|
|Radio: MGoBlue / WOMC 104.3 FM|
Last year’s game at Utah could very well have been the low point of last season. Michigan suffered a 16 point road loss against a seemingly mediocre team which knocked their record to 4-4, a hole they never seemed to be able to pull themselves out of. Michigan looked discombobulated and inept, playing without Zack Novak, and they barely put up a fight as Marshall Henderson carved them up for 22 points.
Utah returns just one starter, 77 minutes, and 15 points of production from last year’s contest while Michigan returns one starter (Morris), 86 minutes (17 of which belonged to Eso Akunne), and 16 points. Michigan is not only in an entirely different situation than they were a year ago, these are almost entirely different teams.
Will Clyburn, Jason Washburn, and Josh Watkins
Will Clyburn has carried the Ute offense thus far, the 6-foot-7 junior averages 20 points and 9 rebounds per game while shooting 51% inside and 38% outside the arc. Utah has plenty of size inside as 7-footer Jason Washburn and 7-foot-3 David Foster anchor the middle. 6-foot guard Josh Watkins provides the bulk of the remaining Utah scoring, averaging 16 points and 4 assists per game and doing most of his damage inside the arc and at the charity stripe. 6-foot-8 Jay Watkins and 6-foot-7 Shawn Glover aren’t offensive stalwarts but they don’t turn the ball over and are able rebounders.
Michigan will undoubtedly have their hands full trying to deal with Utah’s size up front. With three starters over 6-foot-7 (6-7, 6-8, and 7-0) and more size off the bench, Utah ranks first in effective height and 10th in average height. Despite their size, Utah is not without their weaknesses. They are a terrible three point shooting team, connecting on just 26% of their three point attempts this season. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that they struggle on the offensive glass and have 12% of their shots blocked.
Utah’s offense thrives when they can get to the free throw line as the Utes boast the 7th best free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in the nation at 54%. Keeping Utah off of the free throw line will undoubtedly be tantamount to Michigan’s success defensively as the Utes score an NCAA best 30% of their points at the stripe. The Wolverines have thrived in this regard under John Beilein and rank 10th in the nation in terms of keeping opponents off the line.
Defensively, Utah does a solid job limiting opponents’ shooting percentages and they block a fair amount of shots but that’s about it. They are relatively average when it comes to forcing turnovers and hitting the defensive glass. Their Achilles heel is their penchant to foul too often, six players average more than 4 fouls per 40 minutes, and allow opponents to shoot lots of free throws.
Pomeroy predicts Michigan taking this one by a score of 66-59 with a 78 percent chance at victory. I might not be quite so confident but on paper I think this is a game Michigan can win. They will have to hit some shots, and I worry about their ability to finish inside, but all in all a winnable game. I’ll go Michigan 67, Utah 64 (there’s no way my score prediction is as close as last week). Let’s hear your thoughts and predictions:
- Will Clyburn plays a great game, similar to Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, because Michigan doesn’t have an answer to guard these tall and athletic slashing forwards.
- Michigan manages to keep Utah off the free throw line, holding them to a free throw rate under 33%.
- Jordan Morgan shoots under 50% from the field for just the second time this season as he struggles with Utah’s size inside.
Bonus! We should have a number of recruiting posts this weekend as well. Stay tuned.