Game 15: Michigan at Wisconsin Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Michigan (11-3) at Wisconsin(11-3)
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, WI
When: Wednesday, January 5th, 8:30 PM ET
Radio: MGoBlue / WWWW 102.9 FM

Michigan’s last three games at the Kohl Center have followed an eerily similar script. A painfully slow but tantalizingly neck and neck affair that comes down to a handful of critical possessions in the final minutes. Unfortunately, a majority of those important possessions have been won by the Badgers. Those are the possessions that Wisconsin wins at home and they are the reason that the Badgers have won the last three games (64-61, 60-55, and 54-48) and they are the reason that Wisconsin rarely loses games in the cozy confines of the Kohl Center.

This year’s Wisconsin team features different players but they still resemble what you would expect from a Bo Ryan coached team. They are tough and they execute the swing offense to perfection.  As John Gasaway pointed out, Wisconsin has turned the ball over just 5 times through their first 115 possessions of Big Ten play. It might be obvious to some, but Wisconsin has gradually shifted into a perimeter oriented team over the last five seasons.  It sounds strange that Wisconsin, a team most often associated with big and strong physical play, plays a perimeter oriented offense but the proof lies in the numbers.


Wisconsin has always done a tremendous job taking care of the basketball, a staple of the perimeter oriented team, but they have attempted more three point field goals and fewer free throws over the last five seasons. Michigan is the only Big Ten team that attempts a higher proportion of three pointers than Wisconsin but the Badgers are just 2.6% behind this season. Point guard Jordan Taylor (38%) and big man Jon Leuer (47%) spearhead the Badger three point attack and have attempted just under half of Wisconsin’s three pointers by themselves. That’s not to say other Badgers can’t make you pay from three point range: 6-foot-8 Keaton Nankivil (46%), 6-foot-6 Mike Bruesewitz (37%), and 6-foot-6 Tim Jarmusz (41%) are worthy three point snipers in their own right.

Against Illinois the three point centric strategy cost the Badgers the game as they hit just 4 of 20 threes in the second half. Wisconsin has shot under 31% five times this season and three of those games resulted in losses. Three point defense appeared to be a Michigan strength early on, but opponents are shooting 47% from three point range over the last three games.

Defensively the Badgers are solid if not as spectacular as year’s past. They do a great job defending two point shots, opponents shoot just 41% from inside the arc, but struggle defending the three where opponents are hitting 37%. They are a solid rebounding team on both backboards but haven’t forced many turnovers this season. The good news for Michigan is that Wisconsin has shown vulnerability from three point range, where Michigan expects to attempt around half of their shots. On the other hand, it will be tough for Darius Morris and some of Michigan’s guards to get quality shots in the lane.

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The Darius Morris/Jordan Taylor match-up should be the headliner as Taylor is one of the league’s top point guards and Morris appears to be on his way. Morris’ length should be an advantage versus the 6-foot-1 guard but Michigan should have more concern over defending Jon Leuer. Leuer is an inside-out, rebounding machine that averages 20 points and 7 rebounds per contest and has earned All-American consideration. Michigan’s freshmen big men have faced players like JaJuan Johnson and Keith Benson but they have yet to face a big man like Leuer that can truly stretch the defense to the three point line. Morgan, Horford, Smotrycz, or McLimans – each have individual disadvantages versus Leuer and it will be interesting to watch how Michigan attempts to mask these deficiencies.

On paper, there’s no way to pick Michigan over the bigger, more experienced, and simply better Badgers. Throw in the best home court advantage in the Big Ten and you understand why Pomeroy’s numbers give Wisconsin an 87% chance at victory and picks Wisconsin 62-53 in a 55 possession game.

Three predictions:

  • Jon Leuer gets any shot he wants and goes for 20 & 10 as Michigan can’t seem to stop him inside or out.
  • Someone we don’t expect: Nankivil, Gasser, Bruesewitz or someone even further down the depth chart knocks down 3+ triples and is a surprise double digit scorer.
  • Michigan stays close until around halftime before falling into a lengthy field goal drought that allows Wisconsin to pull away.
  • KRN

    Great write-up as usual Dylan.

    The key here is to combat Wisconsin’s slow play with above average 3 point shooting. One of the following, Douglass, Novak, Smotrycz, or Hardaway is going to have to make at least four 3s for us to hang in there. The reason I say this is that this seems to have all the makings of one of those games where Morris or Morgan have an off night. Hoping for a win but certainly not expecting one.

  • JimC

    I guess we can only savor the PSU game for so long….Hate to say it, but this looks like the beginning of a streak of difficult losses. There’s a better chance for @IU, @NW, MN, so it’s important that these next three are at least competitive!

    Metrics seems to play better on the road than at home. Maybe he can make a difference.

  • Tweeter

    I like our chances at defending them a little better than the last couple games because it seems like the way we have been beaten is by over-helping on penetration. While Taylor is very good, the rest of Wisky is not great off the bounce. So Michigan should be able to stop penetration a little easier and thus help less and leave fewer wide open threes.

    However, I have no idea if UM will be able to score against Wisconsin at all. On Leuer, might we see a lot more of Vogrich as a defensive option? The way that Leuer plays I would rather guard him with one of our three-men than use a big. Vogrich has really stepped up lately and I wouldnt mind seeing him get an extended look to see if he can perform. If not, Hardaway and Novak would be my next options.

    • gpsimms

      just my epinion, but leuer would eat vogrich alive. I loved the way Vogrich was pushing his little heart out against PSU against bigger guys, and has pleasantly surprised me on d the past few games. But Leuer is maybe the most complete offensive player in the league, he’s at a different level.

      • JimC

        i feel the same way – Vogrich is emerging more offensively this year, but he still looks slow/flat-footed. Would rather see Novak or THJr on him, if that makes sense.

      • Tweeter

        Yea I’m not saying that Vogrich wouln’t get eaten alive by Leuer, I am just saying that I would not mind seeing him get a shot. If it does not work, then you move on and try Timmy or Novak. I just do not like the way our 4 and 5s match up with him and would rather see the 3s get the chance.

        My guess is that Evan starts the game on him (which I don’t like) and then Hardaway gets a look early as well. We shall see in a matter of hours and at the end of day (a saying I hate), all I care about is that Michigan wins.

  • mgocanada

    I think Michigan is a rare example of a team with little home court advantage of its own, but which tends to play gutsy ball in hostile places (see the Kohl last season, and our win in Minneapolis). The Clemson and Syracuse games made me think these guys are better when in the face of overwhelming adversity, while they tend to underachieve when they are made even the slightest bit comfortable (e.g. Concordia). How Bo Ryan gets his maniacally accurate, buzz-cutted psycho shooters who also happen to be 6-6 or taller is beyond me. Hopefully we can get some momentum in transition behind Darius Morris, and play some nasty tight Man D on the perimeter– something makes me think these stinkin’ badgers aren’t afraid of the Zone. Might be an opportunity for Colton to contribute defensively, if the scorers step up. Cornell beat a better version of these guys the old fashioned way: by hitting every single basket.

    I am a weird UM fan in that I actually hate Wiscy much more than OSU or MSU — they seem to be the precocious goody-two-shoes of college hoops and they deserve a serious beat down. Also, that whole state is irritating. Well, Marquette’s OK. Anyway, if not tonight then please, please at Crisler!

    Go Horned Frogs!

    • gpsimms

      now the colton christian suggestion i like. i know he’s a zero on offense, but he’s a legit athlete, and there’s no reason to not give him a try after wiscy shoots 75% for the first 6 minutes or so of the game, like they usually do against us.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Don’t think Colton has really shown that he can be a defensive stopper. Athlete, maybe, but he doesn’t seem to grasp defensive concepts well enough.

      • gordie bell

        I hope Colton doesn’t see the floor, he’s not anywhere near being a contributor on this team. I would rather see Okunne(sp) than Colton.

  • MikeSal

    I agree that we tend to get burned helping defend the drive. Some of our close outs are not good either which is something that JB hopefully addressed. For some quirky reason I think we have a chance against these guys. If they have an off shooting night then we definitely have a chance. The first and last 5 mins of each half will tell the story. We can’t get down like we did against Purdue and expect to come back especially with the number of possessions being few. Tweeter made a great point with Vogrich. He has surprised a lot of people recently with his play including myself. His confidence is growing and he is really turning into a strong asset for this team. As far as UW, Leur is going to get his we need to make sure we contest shots and rebound. rebound. rebound.

    I will make sure to cheer extra loud tonight for everybody! GO BLUE

  • drae

    Hopefully the open 3’s will fall tonight… Might be a night that we see Stu put up some good numbers… Can’t come out slow, need to get out in transition early on… Last 3 @ Wisconsin have been close maybe this year they’ll get over the hump…

  • gpsimms

    in two years we will officially be a basketball school

    • mgocanada

      not sure how old you are, my friend, but you should really have ended your sentence with the word “again.”

      • gpsimms

        i meant more in the sense that we were not a “basketball school” even during good years, because we were a football school instead.

        now, we enter a deep abyss with which only notre dame is familiar.

        • MarcO

          Miami & Florida St might argue that they belong in that statement as well.

    • Tweeter

      lots not go crazy yet. The football situation looks messy right now, but they have enough talent that if the right coach comes in, he can win right away. If DB hires the wrong coach, well then, we can start looking to our friends at ND, Miami, FSU, etc.

      • mgocanada

        Not to start an FB thread (especially since Mgoblog officially imploded today and now resembles postwar Berlin) but I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Tweeter. I think today’s announcement was long overdue and that our residual pull as a program should probably get us the man (or woman) we need to be great again.

  • grandchamp

    Getting off to a quick start will be huge tonight. We cannot allow them to come out and punch us in the mouth.

  • We could really use a victory tonight.

  • grandchamp

    Vegas expects us to get blown out, the line is +11.5. That is very high for a game that is expected to be low scoring.

    • MarcO

      Betting UM to cover?

      • grandchamp

        First big 10 road game for the freshman so I’m just gonna watch the game and enjoy it. I wouldn’t be shocked if we hung close for a while and then got blown out down the stretch. I think we have the ability to pull of a few big upsets this year and this would be considered one. Kenpom gives us a better chance at beating Kansas at home than Wisconsin on the road.

        • grandchamp

          Changed my mind and bet just 1 unit.

  • MikeM

    We’ll need an excellent defensive game from Novak. I like the concept of Smot on Leuer, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect him to be up to that task, so I expect Novak is going to have to spend all his energy hanging with a taller opponent. Fortunately he’s got a lot of experience doing that. Heh.

  • drae

    It would be a good thing also to get Smotz and Hardaway off to a good start… Make some bunny shots to build confidence…

    • Azad

      Getting bunny shots vs Wisconsin is easier said than done…our best hope is for our outside shots to fall, and for Morris to play better than he did against Purdue.

  • sven

    Michigan 93 Wisconsin 44

    • Sullycu

      This is usually a joke made when someone has some ridiculous expectations for the team…but it doesn’t really fit here because what most have said is pretty realistic: we hang close than get blown out.

      • mgocanada

        44 is a very realistic Michigan score for this game.

  • mike

    I would like to see colton christian get some minutes and guard leuer. He would do a much better job then putting slow foot smotz on him or having an undersized novak play on him.

  • Junderground

    Once the game gets started, if someone could post a live stream, I would appreciate it and find it to be an act of generosity. I’m an alum outside B10 Network coverage who doesn’t own a TV anyway. Thanks!

  • mgocanada

    I find myself in same position as Junderground. Now, some wonderful person did us all a solid last time by posting a stream of the Penn St game, which was also broadcast on the Butterfly Network. So there’s proof that it can be done — if only the will exists!

    Please someone stream this game! And tell us where to find it so we don’t have to end up giving our cellphone and credit card numbers to anonymous flashing websites with incongruous pictures of Lebron James that claim to have the game but actually only have viruses, poker banner ads and dead streams requiring us to download a video plugin from a shadowy URL based in China. Thank you!

  • rkw

    whats up with CB and TB on the hardwood?

    • Tweeter

      they’re awesome

    • SJWolv

      I think CB had 21, TB had 29 and GR III had 17 last night. All wins for their teams.

  • C weezy

    I’d really like to see Michigan slow it down on offense tonight. Take their time and let Morris do his thing (penetrate and dish it out), and suprise the Badgers with a little 1-3-1 on the defensive end. Good luck and Go Blue