Game 16: Kansas at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Kansas (14-0) at Michigan (11-4) images[1]
Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: January 9th, 2011, 4:30PM
Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM/Sirius Ch. 113

Simply put, Michigan hasn’t been playing great basketball recently. The defensive tenacity that defined the majority of non-conference play has disappeared over the last four games as Michigan’s defense has been picked apart by the likes of Bryant, Purdue, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Michigan has been outscored by .18 points per possession through three games of Big Ten play, a mark that ranks second to last in the conference. Hosting the nation’s number three team isn’t necessarily the easiest way to get on track.

As you would expect from one of the country’s last undefeated teams, the Jayhawks don’t have many weaknesses on either side of the ball. Offensively they shoot the lights out with a 60% effective field goal percentage – 59.8% on twos, 40.2% on threes – and crash the offensive glass. Perhaps their only weakness offensively is making free throws, as they shoot a pedestrian 67% from the charity stripe.

Kansas is even better defensively, ranking first in Pomeroy’s defensive ratings. The Jayhawk defense starts by limiting opponents’ shooting percentages inside (43% on twos) and outside (26% on threes) but it’s strong across the board. Kansas turns opponents over on 24% of their possessions, rebounds over 70% of opponents’ misses, and does a good job limiting opposition free throws. There aren’t many, if any, defensive weaknesses for this Kansas squad.


Kansas’ roster features a rash of five star, top 100, and McDonalds All American recruits and another was just inserted into the rotation five games ago, Josh Selby. Selby was a consensus top five recruit and has lived up to his hype early on, averaging 15 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game. A majority of Selby’s offensive production has been from the perimeter where he’s shooting 55% compared to just 30% from two point range.

The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, anchor the middle. Marcus averages 15 points and 6 rebounds per game and shoots a remarkable 66% on two point field goal attempts, he’s also a threat from three point range where he’s connected on 14 of 31 attempts. Markieff is the stronger rebounder of the duo as he averages 13 points and 9 rebounds per game. It was Marcus Morris that killed Michigan last year, scoring 23 points on 7 of 10 shooting with 10 rebounds.

After those three, there are plenty of other talented players. Point guard Tyshawn Taylor averages 10 points and 6 assists per game. 6-foot-9 Thomas Robinson comes off the bench and averages 10 points and 7 rebounds. 6-foot-3 guards Tyrell Reed and Brady Morningstar don’t look for their offense often but are capable of hitting open shots. Bill Self calls 6-foot-5 Travis Releford the Jayhawks’ “utility player” as he can play inside or out at basically any position. Despite loaded recruiting classes year in and year out, Kansas’ roster is very experienced and hasn’t necessarily been decimated by one and done players. They only play one freshman, Josh Selby, and the majority of the Kansas rotation consists of juniors and seniors.

On paper, there aren’t many individual match-ups that favor Michigan in this one. Having two strong and physical post players to deal with will be a problem for Michigan defensively. However it’s worth noting that the Wolverines actually did a great job on the defensive glass last year at Kansas. The difference in that game was that Michigan just couldn’t defend the Jayhawks and allowed them to live at the free throw line and knock down a majority of their shots. Kansas hasn’t been without their close calls this season, most notably home wins over Southern Cal and UCLA by less than a basket. The Jayhawks have also only played one true road game, a 78-63 win at California.

Michigan will obviously have to hit some threes, which is probably a perquisite for any game it wins this season, but tempo will also be important. Michigan averages 64 possessions per game (319th) compared to Kansas’ 71 possessions per game (41st), so you can bet that the Jayhawks will want to run. Michigan doesn’t have the athletes to keep up in a track meet and should have a much better chance in a slower game that forces Kansas to be more disciplined on every possession – of course Kansas’ memorable NCAA tournament upset last season was in a 61 possession game versus Northern Iowa as well.

Pomeroy’s projections have Kansas winning 72-60 in a 66 possession game and he gives Michigan an 11% chance at victory. Upsets happen but it’s tough to pick this Michigan team which hasn’t been able to play 40 minutes of good basketball in quite some time. The Wolverines might stick around early but it’s just a matter of time before the Jayhawks pull away. Here are three predictions:

  • Kansas posts an effective field goal percentage over 55%.
  • Defensive rebounding and free throws will be critical. Michigan needs to rebound about 70% of Kansas’ missed shots and attempt more free throws to have a chance down the stretch.
  • Stu Douglass leads Michigan in scoring.
  • Beast1530

    I don’t see Michigan winning this one. Kansas is too good and has a lot of players that could come after you in waves. The Morris twins has made KU fans forget about Aldrich. Throw in a freshman phenom, Josh Shelby who has been dazzling since he is eligible to play. Unless Michigan starts getting hot from the 3 point line, KU win this one big 75-58

  • Kool Breeze

    For any chance at a “W”, our shot selection needs to be better then the WI game. We forced too many bad shots early in the shot clock against WI and it killed us. Go Blue!

  • steve

    the only reason i give us any shot at all is at home… we did play them pretty tough last year on the road so maybe the home fans will help us pull off a shocker… we also need to hope kansas overlooks us somewhat…

  • mgocanada

    We can get beat up by KU, we can get beat up by OSU, but hopefully these guys are going to be sick of getting beaten up and will proceed to win winnable games in Evanston and Bloomington. go blue.

  • kevin

    stu always seems to come up huge in big games. he will go for 20+ and help keep the game close.

  • steve

    michigan state loses to penn state… how do they always have trouble with that team?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I don’t know, it’s definitely odd. That Penn State team just isn’t very good either. That game was terribly officiated on both ends down the stretch, just pathetic job by the refs.

      Also, Trey Burke had 22 points in a nice 63-54 win over a Rice (NY) team that features a 6-foot-5 rivals 150 guard headed to Cincinnati.

  • tin mad dog

    I hope we somehow introduce Jon Gruden as the new football coach at halftime.

  • AG2

    PSU just got lucky, MSU lost because of missed free throws. Watch them go 20-20 or something @ Crisler.

    • mgocanada

      If PSU can get lucky, so can we. Suddenly, I’m looking forward to this Sparty team coming to Crisler. But first: Kansas.

    • MH20

      Sparty has been laying bricks from the line all season long; this was not an isolated incident. MSU simply cannot shoot FTs.

  • We’ve played the best teams tough the last few years under Beilein. Hope we do it again tomorrow. A win would give these guys a boost for the rest of the conference schedule.

  • Sam

    My big prediction tomorrow: The best Morris on the floor actually will be on Michigan’s side.

    • AG2

      KU will see your Morris and raise you a Selby.

  • KRN

    Go Blue Wolverine reporting a recruiting bonanza at Crisler tomorrow.
    In addition to commits Brundidge and Robinson III, Gary Harris, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Jordan Hare, Derrick Walton, and Khaliq Spicer will all be in attendance. ($)

    Let’s try to make this at least a respectable showing.

    • mgocanada

      Why oh why would they bring the recruits to the Kansas game? Couldn’t they invite them to the Minnesota game instead?

    • CJD

      Love to see a couple of bigs making a visit; Hare would be a huge get in my opinion. I have asked a few times; is there any interest in Tim McCormicks Son Kellen?

      Any scouting report on him?

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Kellen is more a of a MM, maybe MM+, recruit at this point.

        • CJD


  • grandchamp

    We are +10 and the over under is 135. This game is gonna be a battle throughout. Nice to see Gary Harris making a visit.

    • Mith

      If I was a gambler I would go with Kansas -10. We might keep it close and give them a good fight, but I really would be surprised if they don’t pull away at some point.

      Remember the 19-3 run at the beginning of the Purdue game? I’m terrified of that happening again.

      • CJD

        I would lay the points as well…..

  • JimC

    I hope Darius is under control. He can get wild sometimes, but if he plays team ball it will be an interesting game. GO BLUE!

    • CJD

      Ditto; but I have a bad feeling that we will too few quality shots due to poor ball movement to compete in this game.

      I hope I am dead wrong…………

  • mgocanada

    I suggest that UM schedule our next marquee home-and-home against North Carolina… cause every team that beats UNC gets a massive boost and national recognition as though they beat Michael Jordan himself, but unlike Kansas, they’re still far from being elite team. More bang for our buck.

    • Mith

      Who are you talking about getting a massive boost and national recognition?

      • mgocanada

        Minny and Vandy, both of whom were momentarily heralded as conference contenders just b/c they topped UNC. Not going to belabour the point, but it would be nice to get some revenge for 1993, too. (Maybe I should’ve posted this comment under the JB interview where he touched on scheduling high majors, but whatever). Moving on…

  • Ryan

    Does anyone know if dave brandon is at the game?