Iowa’s transition success is troubling news to the Wolverines because Michigan’s has one of the worst transition defenses in the country.
The following scatterplot shows the percent of defensive possessions in transition (x-axis) allowed and the points allowed per transition possession (y-axis). The best defenses – fewest points allowed, fewest possessions allowed – are in the upper-right quadrant.
The Wolverines allow the fewest transition possessions per game in the Big Ten but do the worst job of stopping them. If 20 to 25 percent of Iowa’s offensive possessions are in transition against Michigan, which could spell major difficulty for a Wolverine defense that usually allows just 12.3% of its defensive possessions in transition. If Michigan can keep that number under 15% for the game, it will be in a much better space defensively.
For that reason, expect the Wolverines to continue to be very conservative on the offensive glass, focusing more on getting back on defense than securing an extra possession.
Michigan butchered Wisconsin with ball screen after ball screen at the Kohl Center for its best road win in program history. 42% of Michigan’s possessions against the Badgers were ball screens, and the Wolverines were very effective knocking down mid-range shots available from Wisconsin’s conservative defensive approach.
That was no major surprise as the Wolverines are the best ball screen team in the Big Ten, despite losing Trey Burke to the NBA.
Only Illinois runs more ball screens than Michigan and no one is nearly as efficient. The Wolverines have three of the top-12 ball screen players in the league in Nik Stauskas (No. 2), Spike Albrecht (No. 5) and Caris LeVert (No. 12), and John Beilein gives his players plenty of freedom with the ball in their hands.
The bad news for the Wolverines is that Iowa touts one of the best ball screen defenses in the Big Ten. Similar to the defensive scatterplot above, the following graph shows percent of ball screen possessions defended against points allowed per ball screen. The best ball screen defenses are in the upper-right quadrant of the graph.
Iowa and Northwestern are the best teams at defending ball screens – by a wide margin.
A big reason for that success is Iowa’s ability to take away the ball handlers’ offense. There are only two teams that are more effective at taking away the dribblers’ offense in the pick-and-roll game, Arkansas and Virginia. Iowa has the luxury of having 6-foot-6 senior Devyn Marble guarding ball screens, which can make it more difficult for guards to shoot, get to the basket, or pass over the top.
Iowa surrenders just .545 points per possession to the ball handler. For comparison, Nik Stauskas usually scores .821 points per ball screen shot and Caris LeVert usually scores .963 points per ball screen shot.
- Iowa plays zone defense on 30% of its defensive possessions. The Hawkeyes are a very good zone defensive team, but Michigan is among the best zone offenses in the country. The Wolverines are scoring 1.30 points per possession against zone defenses, good for the 99th percentile nationally.
- Return of the shooter. Josh Oglesby shot just 27% on 3-pointers last season but since he returned on December 22nd, he’s 12-of-20 from long range including a 5-of-7 effort against Minnesota.
- Iowa’s Gabriel Olaseni and Melsahn Basabe rank 3rd and 5th in the Big Ten in points scored off of putbacks. Both players should provide a challenge for on the glass for Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, Michigan’s big men that have exceeded expectations with Mitch McGary sidelined.