NCAA Tournament 2013: Scouting the Michigan Wolverines

Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

The Jayhawks take on Michigan tonight as they attempt to make it to the Elite 8 for the third straight year

Back in January Kansas and Michigan were tied atop the AP poll, but Michigan went just 6-6 in their last 12 games before the NCAA tournament, and slipped all the way to a 4 seed. That seems like a distant memory though as they defeated South Dakota State in their opener and demolished VCU 78-53 in the round of 32.

The Wolverines' calling card is their offense: Trey Burke is the probable national player of the year (or at least he should be) and everyone in Michigan's starting five is a threat to score. Burke of course is the engine: in addition to being a great point guard (37.9% assist rate to 13.2% turnover rate), he also takes over 28% of the shots while on the floor, and shoots 51% from two and 39% from three. Burke takes more two point jumpers than anyone else on the Wolverines, but also makes 44% of them (though some of those could be misclassified floaters). Kansas's best bet with him (and in general) will be to go over the ballscreens that he utilizes so well and force him to try to get to the rim where he will meet the best defender in the country.

Speaking of needing to force people inside, Canadian Nik Stauskas takes 60% of his shots from three, and makes an astounding 43% of them. He is more versatile than people give him credit for, taking a fourth of his shots at the rim, but only shoots 59% there, the worst among Michigan regulars. Taking away his room to shoot is the #1 priority of the defense, outside of doing whatever they can to neutralize Burke. Stauskas made 3 or more threes in 11 games this year (though he hasn't since February 5th).

Tim Hardaway gets more pub than Stauskas, but while he shoots more than the Canadian, he does so far less efficiently: he has an eFG of 53.8% compared to Stauskas's 58.7%. Hardaway also gets to the line a bit less frequently, but he shoots 71% there. While it is a different animal than letting Stauskas drive the lane, I will deal with that over Hardaway getting room to shoot from three, shooting 39.3% on the year. It will be interesting to see how he does against the best interior defense in the country, a defense allowing opponents to shoot just 50% at the rim, and blocking almost a fourth of the shots their opponents attempt.

Glenn Robinson doesn't take a lot of shots or use a lot of possessions, but has an eFG of 61.6%, ranking 29th nationally. He takes over half his shots at the rim, as you can imagine, and shoots 74% there. He also gets fouled more than any other Wolverine, but shoots only 66% from the line.

The person who has taken the most shots at the rim for Michigan is Freshman Mitch McGary. He takes almost three fourths of his shots up close, and shoots 69%. He is shooting just 35% on two point jumpers, so he probably won't be drawing Withey outside, but if he makes a couple then it could force Young or Ellis to switch onto him to go out and guard him. The real worry with McGary is his offensive rebounding: He is the 7th best offensive rebounder in the country this year percentage wise, and though the Jayhawks led the Big 12 in defensive rebounding he will certainly be a handful on the glass. Michigan shoots well enough as it is, so Kansas certainly doesn't want to give Michigan too many second looks.

Now, a quick look at the four factors. First, on offense:

And now, the defense:

To be honest, the first thing that jumped out to me was that offensively, Michigan has only the slightest lead in terms of shooting the ball. The big advantage they have on offense is that they turn it over fewer than anyone in America, whereas Kansas turns it over, well, quite a bit. I think this approach for Michigan will work Kansas's favor: KU's defense doesn't depend on turning people over (they rank 253rd), so the fact that Michigan takes care of it so well doesn't really help them any extra (as opposed to against VCU, who needs to force turnovers to stop someone).

The other big stylistic anomaly is that the Wolverines send opponents to the line fewer than anyone else, whereas Kansas led the Big 12 in that regard. However, a quick browse of hoop math shows that the Wolverines allow opponents to shoot 62% at the rim and block just 8% of field goal attempts. I think this will be a game where going to Withey (and to a lesser extent Ellis and Young) will be huge because some easy(ish) baskets should be available. The other way points will be available is that Michigan was 8th in the Big 10 on the defensive glass, while Kansas was 2nd in the Big 12 in offensive rebounding. The Jayhawks treated throwing the ball up on the glass like an extra pass against North Carolina, and similarly I think they'll be able to do that against Michigan, especially when McGary is on the bench.

The last note on the game regards the gigantic dome in Arlington: The prevailing thought is that jump shooting teams shoot worse in domes, and while I am not 100% sure of that, I do think that it matters more on the first game of a weekend, and it will certainly be amplified in Cowboys Stadium with its insane backdrop. Only Robinson, McGary and Jordan Morgan, who has been relegated to the bench, take even 30% of their shots at the rim, so that deep backdrop could work in the Jayhawks' favor. I hope.

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