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This KU player should thrive against Michigan's defense, plus a Trey Burke quirk to watch out for

Michigan guard Trey Burke heads up to the bucket against forward Jordan Morgan during a day of practices and press conference for teams in the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Michigan guard Trey Burke heads up to the bucket against forward Jordan Morgan during a day of practices and press conference for teams in the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, March 28, 2013. by Nick Krug

Team: Michigan
Record: 28-7
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 8
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted.

3 Strengths

Ball security: Michigan is the No. 1 team in the nation when it comes to offensive turnover percentage, giving it away on just 14.5 percent of its possessions. This will definitely be a case of strength versus weakness, as KU's defense ranks 253rd nationally in defensive turnover percentage. It will be a big surprise if Michigan finishes with double-digit turnovers.

Shooting: The Wolverines are second nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, and a big reason for that is their ability to shoot it from anywhere. UM is 11th nationally in two-point percentage (53.8 percent), 31st nationally in three-point percentage (37.5 percent) and 111th in free-throw percentage (71.4 percent). Michigan has an impressive balance of big men who shoot a lot of close shots and guards who are terrific jump-shooters. Thirty-six percent of Michigan's shots are layups/dunks/tips (34 percent is NCAA average), while the Wolverines also shoot 39 percent as a team on two-point jumpshots (NCAA average is 35 percent).

Avoiding fouls: This is another staple of John Beilein-coached teams: They won't put you on the free-throw line. This Michigan team is actually one of the best he's ever had at avoiding whistles, as it leads the nation in defensive free-throw rate. Opponents are averaging just 12.6 free-throw attempts per game against UM.

3 Weaknesses

Getting to the free-throw line: Michigan lacks a true back-to-the-basket scorer in the post, while its guards are reliant on jumpshots for points. Because of these traits, the Wolverines struggle to get to the free-throw line, ranking 335th nationally in offensive free-throw rate while averaging 16.2 free-throw attempts per game. This characteristic — also present in almost every Beilein team — means it's less likely that KU center Jeff Withey battles foul trouble Friday.

Defensive rebounding: The numbers are a bit deceiving with this statistic. Michigan ranks 69th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage (70.8 percent), which on the surface appears to be a strong number. In mid-January, though, the Wolverines were second in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage before struggling in that area the last two months. Michigan finished eighth in the stat during Big Ten play, and because the team plays a four-guard lineup, it has struggled on the defensive glass against tall teams in the post like Indiana, Michigan State and Minnesota. KU, which also has size inside, should be able to exploit that same weakness.

• Interior defense: Outside of 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary, Michigan has no other player in its rotation that is a shot-blocking threat. This has made it tough for the Wolverines to stop opponents when they get it close. Michigan ranks 163rd in two-point percentage defense, which was the second-worst of any team left in the Sweet 16 (only La Salle was worse). Opponents are shooting 62 percent at the rim against Michigan (NCAA average is 61 percent) and 36 percent on two-point jumpers (NCAA average is 35 percent).

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot guard Trey Burke (No. 3) isn't just one of the best point guards in the nation ... he's one of the best players in the nation. The sophomore is second in Ken Pomeroy's player of the year statistical ranking and also was KU coach Bill Self's pick for national player of the year — and that was before the brackets were released.

Burke's offensive numbers are spectacular. While taking on a huge offensive load for Michigan (he ends 29.1 percent of his team's possessions, which is 65th nationally), the guard has maintained outstanding assist numbers (22nd nationally in assist rate) and shooting numbers (300th in effective field-goal percentage) while managing to keep his turnovers down (207th nationally in turnover rate). Burke also is a good three-point shooter (67 of 173, 38.7 percent) and free-throw shooter (80.1 percent), though he doesn't get to the line as much as you might expect.

A good comparison for Burke would be a more well-rounded version of Baylor's Pierre Jackson, except for the fact that they get their two-pointers in different ways. While Jackson's strength is taking his dribble all the way to the rim, Burke's strength is using the pick-and-roll to free himself for a jumpshot or floater. According to Hoop-Math.com, Burke has the highest percentage of two-point jumpshots taken on the team (41 percent), yet he still leads UM's rotation players with 44-percent accuracy on two-point jumpers (remember, NCAA average is 35 percent on those).

One interesting tidbit to watch: In iso situations, Burke is much better driving to his left than to his right. Before the NCAA Tournament, Burke was more than a half-point-per-possession better when driving left compared to his right, and he also was almost twice as likely to get all the way to the rim while driving left. We'll see if KU's defenders play this tendency and try to force Burke to his right in late shot-clock situations.

Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. heads in for a dunk during a day of practices and press conference for teams in the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. heads in for a dunk during a day of practices and press conference for teams in the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, March 28, 2013. by Nick Krug

Six-foot-6 guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (No. 10) is the other primary ball-handler for Michigan. Like Burke, Hardaway Jr. is a dangerous shooter, making 39.3 percent of his threes (68 of 173) and 50 percent of his twos (117 of 234). Hardaway Jr. is at his best in transition, and according to Luke Winn's SI.com Power Rankings, the junior is third nationally in points per possession in transition (1.422), trailing only KU's Travis Releford and Florida's Kenny Boynton.

• Six-foot-10 center Mitch McGary (No. 4) has emerged for Michigan in the NCAA Tournament after starting just two games in the regular season. In back-to-back starts, the freshman posted 13 points (6-for-9 shooting) and nine rebounds against South Dakota State and 21 points (10-for-11 shooting) with 14 rebounds against VCU. Offensively, McGary isn't a guy that creates much on his own; most of his points come on passes from Burke off the pick-and-roll or putbacks following offensive rebounds. He is an elite player on the offensive glass, though, ranking seventh nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (16.4 percent). McGary also is 122nd in defensive rebounding percentage, 318th in block percentage, and, somewhat surprisingly, 210th in steal percentage. The freshman is foul-prone, though, racking up 4.8 whistles per 40 minutes. He's a candidate for foul trouble if KU is able to consistently get it to Withey in the post.

Prediction

Interestingly, there are a lot of similarities between North Carolina, the last team KU faced, and Michigan. Both teams have four-guard lineups, rely heavily on jumpshots, limit turnovers, are foul averse, don't get to the free-throw line much and have had issues with defensive rebounding.

Having said that, UNC would definitely be considered a watered-down version of Michigan, as the Wolverines boast a much better backcourt and also better overall shooters.

There are three main reasons I see this as a potential bad matchup for KU:

1. Trey Burke: KU's guards have struggled with cutting off dribble penetration all year, and that's Burke's specialty. Not only that, Michigan's offense consists of a flurry of high-ball screens, which will force Withey to play in space. KU struggled with a similar offensive team in Baylor on March 9, as Jackson and Cory Jefferson torched KU with high ball screens in the Bears' 81-58 victory.

2. KU's tendency to sometimes overhelp defensively: Michigan's spacing, which typically puts Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas in the corners, makes it a dangerous offense to help against. Both players can make KU pay if its defenders help too much on drives, as Robinson is a 34-percent three-point shooter and Stauskas is at 43.4 percent from long range. Robinson III also has a tendency to sneak in at the right time for easy baskets, as according to Hoop-Math.com, 54 percent of his shots have been at the rim, where he's shooting 74 percent. Two-thirds of those field goals have been assisted.

3. KU's offense has stopped KU's offense: Michigan's weakness is defensively — especially in the post — so this profiles as a game where both teams should be able to score. KU's offense has been so inconsistent lately, though, that it's hard for me to think that an opponent's poor defense will make much of a difference against the Jayhawks offense. KU's 0.96 points per possession in the first two NCAA games was the lowest by any team in the Sweet 16, and though that's a small sample, it's not an encouraging number considering KU wasn't exactly playing defensive juggernauts in Western Kentucky and UNC.

This should be a great game — the two teams are about as even statistically as you can get — but I'm giving the edge to Michigan.

I see the Wolverines being able to score effectively against KU's guards with pick-and-roll while limiting Withey's impact by shooting a lot of jumpshots.

Against one of the nation's best offenses, this is probably going to be the game where KU needs its offense to keep pace and eventually win the game.

It could happen, but it's hardly a guarantee with the inconsistency this team has played with on the offensive end all season.

Michigan 73, Kansas 69

Hawk to Rock

I've picked him a lot lately, but this is the game to pick Jeff Withey for his offense instead of his defense.

Kansas center Jeff Withey smiles with a black eye while talking with media members during a day of practices and press conference for teams in the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, March 28, 2013. Withey suffered the shiner during the Jayhawks' last game against North Carolina.

Kansas center Jeff Withey smiles with a black eye while talking with media members during a day of practices and press conference for teams in the South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Thursday, March 28, 2013. Withey suffered the shiner during the Jayhawks' last game against North Carolina. by Nick Krug

I don't think Withey will be blocking many shots — Michigan's jump-shooting style should prevent that — but Withey definitely has the advantage on the other end if KU can get it to him. As mentioned above, Michigan has a porous two-point defense and also a lack of post players that can block shots. UM's forwards also have a tendency to rack up fouls if they are attacked, meaning Withey should get free throw opportunities if he's aggressive. I'll say Withey has a 20-plus-point game for KU as the Jayhawks take advantage of their biggest mismatch offensively.

Predictions tally
29-7 record, 416 points off (11.6 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (5th)
Kansas State: Naadir Tharpe (3rd)
Texas: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (7th)
TCU: Travis Releford (4th)
Iowa State: Jeff Withey (4th)
West Virginia: Perry Ellis (10th)
Texas Tech: Jeff Withey (1st)
Baylor: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Texas Tech: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (7th)
Kansas State: Jeff Withey (1st)
Western Kentucky: Jeff Withey (1st)
North Carolina: Kevin Young (4th)
Average: 4th in KUsports.com ratings

Comments

Allen Shepard 1 year, 7 months ago

Weak.

You let the matchups get in your head and forgot that this Michigan team is a pretender.

8-6 in their last 14 games. This team is collapsing, and two strong games against mid-majors just make this tournament a microcosm of their season.

KU by 7, and it's not all that close down the stretch.

Kevin Crook 1 year, 7 months ago

Respectfully, Jesse, I hope Dog is right and you are wrong!

Steve Quatrocky 1 year, 7 months ago

I think a better matchup analogy would be last year's Mizzou team, Burke reminds me more of Pressey than Pierre Jackson, and they also played four guards, three between 6'5 and 6'7 who could all shoot form three, plus a sub seven foot center built a lot like McGary. Our Seniors have all grown since then, Rock Chalk and each will focus on shutting down his man regardless of switches and screens.

Steve Gantz 1 year, 7 months ago

And throughout their 8-6 mark, they were ranked top 10 the entire time. They were the worst seeded team in the tourney besides Oregon. This is a very good team and if you think otherwise you'll find out tonight. The game will be toss up, not surprised to see it come down to the last possession.

Ron Franklin 1 year, 7 months ago

Withey is going to get 15 free throws. He'll foul out McGary and J Mrgan has a bad foot and will slow to help and will be foul prone.

justinryman 1 year, 7 months ago

Here are my quick thoughts.

-Free throws, win the points at the line.

-Rebounds, win the battle in the paint, both ends.

-Turnovers, this will be tough, but turn them over when possible and keep a hold of it at mid-court so they can't get out and run. Turnovers in the paint or out of bounds hurt, but they won't lead to run outs.

-Blocked shots, let Withey be Withey and protect the rim like one of those Dobermans on Magnum PI.

And one last one, imagine the victory, see the victory, feel the victory. Play to win the game, don't play not to lose. Play to win, play loose play with a smile.

Joe Joseph 1 year, 7 months ago

The final score of this game won't be close, but it could go either way.

Kansas could be due for an offensive explosion, and Michigan could very well be due for a poor performance.

That, or these two teams continue playing the way they have been playing so far in the tournament and Kansas gets owned.

Either way, this game isn't decided by less than 12 points.

Write it down.

DanR 1 year, 7 months ago

I wish I hadn't read this... five minutes of doom and gloom.

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 7 months ago

When you live in ohio you see a lot of hate items towards michigan but my favorite which i hope is true for us tonight is:

Lets make michigan our bichigan

Ichabodhawk 1 year, 7 months ago

I think it also works saying "Lets make Michigan our Bish-again"

Steve Jacob 1 year, 7 months ago

Michigan is built like North Carolina, but I was shaking my head at what NC was doing in that game. How many times are you going to drive toward Withey and NOT kick the ball out?

Should be a fun weekend, I consider KU, Michigan, and Florida as equal teams, so who comes out of the South is a mystery.

Don't diss Michigan to much, if you saw that VCU game, they missed a lot of open three's to only win by 25.

Jonathan Briles 1 year, 7 months ago

I like our chances in this game because of our seniors. We have 4 starting seniors and I think they are a lot more hungry than the young Michigan team. Our guys know that if they lose their career is over and that should be really inspiring. Its not a season ender its a career ender and that should give us a huge advantage. It will be interesting who we have everyone match up with, but I think we can come out ready and take this game.

jaybate 1 year, 7 months ago

KU-UM Thoughts, Plus "Rough" and "Combat" Officiating Specualtions

Part 1

The UNC analogy is spot on. As would be analogies with ISU and OSU. Where the analogy breaks down, of course is with the 3 250 pounders Beilein can go with in the paint, and with UM's play in a violent conference.

Be that as it may, there have been two UM teams this season.

UM with McGrary as backup for 3/4s of the season was a very consistent, disciplined but not overwhelming spread Princeton team.

UMPrime with McGrary as starter down the stretch became a much more consistently physical and challenging spread Princeton.

McGrary changes UMPrime non linearly. His play means UMPrime has an inside shot blocking presence, plus a guy who can legitimately get it on for 20 minutes or so with a footer like Jeff at both ends. McGrary is aggressive, so his screening becomes a constant impact waiting to happen. But McGrary's emergence means more than these factors. It gives Beilein a two man, 250 pounder rotation at the post, so there's less fall off when substituting now than before McGrary's emergence. Further, it actually gives Beilein three 250 pound bigs and Glen Williams; this lets Beilein go big, or small.

So: why hasn't UMPrime been consistent down the stretch? Simple. Its played some good B10 teams down the stretch. As with most 4 guard teams, it is prone to feast and famine with outside shooting. And finally, it is a relatively "new" team with McGrary starting. As such, it caught teams by surprise, then scouts adjusted. It struggled, then adjusted. The adjustments caught some teams by surprise. Then the scouts adjusted. And so on. It has looked very strong against mid majors, because its disciplined offense has caught the mid majors by surprise. And its combination of heavy weights and 3 sharpshooters outside make it very tough on midmajors to guard.

Few teams start 3 near 40% trey shooters. It stretches defenses. This is why Michigan's bigs all shoot 55% from the field.

But KU is long on the perimeter and so can force three trey shooters to take their shots two feet deeper than usual. This tends to reduce trey percentage a couple points. And KU can do this without suffering greatly with blow-bys, because: a) KU's perimeter defenders are sound and Jeff awaits inside.

So: to reiterate my main points this week:

1) EJ has to be able to contain Burke outside and slow him down on penetrations;

2) Jeff has to find a way to operate defensively amidst McGrary's shoving; and

3) Travis has to deny Nik on the stripe, and score on Nik;

4) Ben has to have a wash with Hardaway;

5) Kevin and Perry have to stop Glen Williams inside, and outscore him; and

6) Jamari has to play 15 minutes without letting the score move negative.

jaybate 1 year, 7 months ago

Part 2

As usual, refereeing will mostly determine how the game unfolds and this appears increasingly to be exactly how the powers that be want it.

Note: the powers that be appear to be lying about wanting officiating not to decide the outcome of games, when they talk about "letting'em play." Decoded, what "letting'em play," means is "we the referees want to be able to determine outcomes by non-calls" and "we the referees want to be able to determine that the team that plays the roughest without elbows wins," and "we the referees want to be able to determine the length of games."

With the above in mind, one must now always look to tip off time and the following big game broadcast as a crucial indicator of how rough the game will actually be played. Basically, all teams have to learn to play two styles of play for the NCAA tournament: rough style and combat.

"Rough" means body checking below the waist and constant moving screens.

"Combat" means shoving, slapping, forearm shivers, chucking every cutter, drive blocking screens, forearms to the face, down stroke elbows on the way to the rim, plus wrist slapping on every shot, plus shouldering and grabbing of drivers as they go by, plus all the above allowed during the "rough" periods.

"Rough games" occur when the next televised game has a 30-45 minute buffer, or is the last game of the day.

"Combat games" occur when there is a high profile EST game that needs to be cut away to without doubt. In these games, the refs let play start combat style and continue combat style until they are absolutely certain the game will fit in the window, which is usually the 5 minute mark in a 10 point game, or 2 minutes in an even game. Note that in full combat games a technical foul on players or coaches will almost never be called.

"Hybrid games" (part rough and part combat) appear to occur when the game has a broadcast window with games of smaller audiences following. Here the game is apparently managed to milk the game out to fill the broadcast window and keep it close. Hybrid games appear often to evidence the following: with 7-10 point leads with 6-8 minutes to go, and sufficient time buffer created in the first half with whistle swallowing, the refs then appear to call, and no-call, the game into a close game in order to keep the viewing audience up to the end, and take that viewing audience all the way not just to the buzzer, but to the end of the broadcast window.

jaybate 1 year, 7 months ago

Note: let me modify the above into less harsh language regarding intentions of powers that be and referees. It is all "seems," not "is." Further, they do not so much appear to be trying to influence outcomes but rather spreads. But even this is open to speculation. I can only say it is how it appears to me from the outside looking in. The referees in my opinion appear to be being asked to do something darned near impossible: keep the games in the broadcast windows with varying buffers between games and keep games from getting completely out of hand.

jaybate 1 year, 7 months ago

Part 3

So: coaches have to understand what kind of officiating will occur. The officials appear to communicate how the game will be called early on by some early decisions. Coaches then coach accordingly.

Only marquis games are refereed conventionally, and only then when the game is sure to fit in the broadcast window.

All of the above appears to be why coaches sometimes ride the refs hard during stretches of and other times sit and say nothing. In a combat game, there is no point wasting time dogging the officials for it will have no effect. Likewise, during whistle swallowing stretches of "Hybrid" games, it is pointless to dog officials. But during whistle calling stretches, or simply "rough" stretches, then we apparently see more traditional referee baiting.

What does all of the above mean for the KU-UM game?

Tip-off time is 6:37 PM CST. This means there is almost certain to be a late EST game, or an early big market PST game starting immediately afterward. Translation: KU-UM should be a "Combat" game. To be sure, check the following game. If there were no following game, then one should expect a "rough" game.

Note: all references to referee behavior in these posts are intended as speculation and opining, rather than as assertion of fact, or insider knowledge. jaybate is only trying to posit possible explanations of reputed nonlinearity in referee foul calling, and possible impacts on the game.

ABeesus 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree that Refs appear to keep games w/in the time window needed, and call to keep games close [as opposed to within the spread], rarely allowing blowouts.

Keeping games close keeps viewers.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 7 months ago

C'mon you guys..Jesse's just doing his job. Michigan's greatest strength is their offensive guard play...KU's greatest weakness is defense on guard play. The Wolverines have a huge edge on us here.

Conversely, the front line will be dominated by Kansas Bigs and Quicks. The key to this game is BenMac's shooting. If he is on, we will dominate..if he is off, it will be a titanic struggle!!

As I stated a couple of days ago, I just keep getting this vibe that's like it's before a Kansas State game and "no worries, mon, of course we win!!"

eric poncharello 1 year, 7 months ago

Jesse gave some numbers and stats on both Kansas and UM, and he gave his opinion on who's going to win. That's cool. I do like Jesse even though he shows some type of assory type of behavior. Jesse, I expect a good write up on Kansas and how your opinion was wrong come Saturday after Kansas smokes michitigan . Since your doing your job, by the way Michigan in the native language means "men from Brokeback mountain". OK, just having a little fun, by the way I don't mind anybody giving me a hard time, no pun intended , OK gotta go I'am on a roll.

easyfive 1 year, 7 months ago

Michigan is going to piss their pants... KU is due for a 20 point blowout!!! The only time we loose is when the guys get tried of winning... Four Seniors fool

KGphoto 1 year, 7 months ago

“The only time we lose is when the guys get tired of winning”

That’s a great quote.

Greg Lux 1 year, 7 months ago

one name is missing from this whole thing ... Ben 3 pointer. If he finds his game and will energize his abilities he is the Joker in this 5 card game....

Rock Chalk

jgkojak 1 year, 7 months ago

...or this could be like the KU-UNC game in 2008 - and KU gets out to a BIG lead early - if our offense is working we should be able to get the rebounds off their misses and they won't be able to stop us running.

dtownhawkfan 1 year, 7 months ago

One of my friends and his father (may he RIP) went to Illinois and are fond of the phrase, "Michigan sucks and Ann Arbor is a whore"....

That being said, I think Ben will get out of his funk. He's due and if last weekend was b/c of nerves/pressure the pressure part should be gone since he has seen we don't have to get 20+ out of him to win. Absolutely are going to need him to make a deep run, but tonight its all going to start and end with containing Burke.

akn28 1 year, 7 months ago

I think Self will go to the Triangle and 2 early like he did with Carolina back in 08' and really believe it will mess with Michigan. Syracuse showed last night if you stay with your defense against a Big 10 team you will beat them.

Jonathan Briles 1 year, 7 months ago

A triangle and two requires you to leave someone mostly unguarded. You can only use it on teams that have a player who is a terrible shooter and Michigan does not have someone that qualifies. I would be surprised if we brought that out. It is a great defense on some teams, but Michigan would more than likely tear it up.

jaybate 1 year, 7 months ago

Maybe we are stumbling over terminology. The way KU plays the triangle and two is not the traditional way. As I understand it, KU's version is designed to match-up three perimeter defenders (the triangle) with three perimeter shooters. And the two KU bigs play zone in the paint.

Since UM has three 39% or better trey shooters in Burke, Hardaway, and Stauskas, it matches up perfectly with UM's 4 guard offense. Michigan's 4th guard is 6-6 220 pound Glen Robinson who actually plays more like Kevin does in our offense, or like UNC's fourth guard did. Robinson shoots 34% from trey. If Robinson were hot from trey, KU would not use this zone, because it would mean 4 guys on the perimeter. But with Robinson averaging only 34%, it makes sense to leave him alone outside, and control the boards inside with the 2 on 1 mismatch in the paint, if UM is foolish enough to waste perimeter shooting on Robinson.

Sam Constance 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't begrudge Jesse picking UM, as he's simply calling it as he sees it.

What I do have a hard time wrapping my brain around is how you can breakdown a matchup between Kansas and Michigan, and not once mention the fact that Michigan has struggled mightily when playing teams as stout defensively as Kansas. Against Wisconsin (#2 in Pomeroy's defensive efficiency), Michigan State (#6), Ohio State (#9) and Indiana (#13), Michigan struggled to a 2-6 record, and averaged a paltry 63.0 ppg in those games, which came at the hands of a 0.97 points per possession clip. I don't see any reason why KU wouldn't have a pretty decent chance of holding Michigan down offensively, given Michigan's performance against similarly-ranked defensive teams.

If you want to get more granular with the numbers, Michigan's points per game and points per possession gets even less impressive when you spit them out against Wisconsin and Michigan State, the two teams who are closest to KU in terms of defensive efficiency. In those four games, Michigan is 1-3 while scoring 57.8 ppg at a clip of 0.88 points per possession.

Lastly, I'll point out that while KU's own offensive efficiency against two rather mediocre defensive teams is troublesome, there are a few caveats that encourage me as a fan:

For starters, Michigan ranks right about where North Carolina is when it comes to defensive efficiency on the year. Michigan's .925 points per possession allowed is only slightly better than UNC's .929 points per possession.

But more to the point, I don't think it's completely fair to evaluate KU's offense based on those first two tourney games. Against WKU, Kansas won a tourney game without hitting a single three-pointer for the first time in 15 years or so. To me, missing open three-pointers isn't indicative of KU's offense being terrible as much as it was indicative of them playing tight because as a 1 v. 16, there is no benefit--KU has everything to lose and nothing to gain, and they had to do it in front of an angst-filled "home" crowd in the Sprint Center. The same tightness clearly carried over to the first half of UNC, missing layup after dunk after bunny until relaxing and realizing that defense was the key to winning that game.

The last caveat I will add is the fact that I also don't think the Baylor game is indicative of our ability to stop players like Jackson (or in this case, Burke). We dominated Baylor in AFH--are we really supposed to believe that the difference between being INCAPABLE of stopping that kind of guard and doing it quite effectively is home v. road? Personally, I think the players got to thinking too much about how the Big 12 title was in the bag after KSU lost to OSU and didn't bring the same defensive intensity that they had played with in their most important games. To them, the game wasn't important the same way an elimination game (or a title race do-or-die game) is important, and it showed.

(to be concluded)

Sam Constance 1 year, 7 months ago

(concluded)

Let's also not underestimate the notion of Kansas having "figured out", so to speak, themselves on offense in that second half against UNC. And it should not be underestimated that we had that second-half rout with our best offensive player sitting on the bench.

Kansas certainly has the ability to lose this game, but the more people throw their lot in with the Wolverines, the more confident I get about the game, because the lopsidedness of the "expert" picks doesn't reflect how close this game will be. Usually in a game this close, you have picks on both sides, and from what I've read, Michigan is the overwhelming favorite to win, even if everyone agrees they are going to win in a close game. Personally, I think the Jayhawks come out ticked off that they've basically been written off and with something to prove. And I think the fact that Michigan is comprised of a bunch of freshman who haven't played in the tournament before combined with all the media love will having them feeling a little complacent and satisfied with themselves.

One thing's for sure--Michigan fans are not nearly as confident as the national media seems to be. I think they understand that Michigan has a much higher prospect of losing than anyone seems to want to admit.

AsadZ 1 year, 7 months ago

Very well said march. It has brought down by blood pressure a little bit

TexiCaliHawk 1 year, 7 months ago

Not to oversimplify; however, I believe we often want to make things more complicated than they are -- we will win (and do so convincingly) if we simply play KANSAS Basketball.

KANSAS Basketball is defined as starting with Defense (the TEAM-oriented, 'in-your-jock', harrassing, irritating, annoying kind) that sparks our 'Transition' Offense (a tipped pass, block or defensive rebound leading to easy -- if we finish our 'bunnies' around the rim -- fast break points).

Offensively, we must move the ball from both side-to-side to create space, while going through Withey inside-out to get him touches in the paint (where he finishes with emphatic dunks instead of finesse jumpers) or kick-out 3's to Ben, Travis and Tharpe/Johnson. If the shot is not there, we need to have our guards/wings aggressively slash to the bucket behind seal-offs from our bigs to get easy lay-ups/dunks -- or at worst -- trips to the FT line.

We must play with a 'free mind' and allow our God-given athletic ability -- and Senior-led leadership -- to shine through. We cannot beat ourselves with unforced errors (like we have in so many games this year), or we will make it much more difficult -- though not impossible -- to win.

Michigan is a VERY good team who had a remarkable year and is playing with a high level of confidence afte their first two games; whereas KU is also a VERY good team who also had a remarkable year, but simply 'survived and advanced' 40 minutes from home in front of a raucous, partisan crowd on a floor they had won 8 times this year. The weight of 'expectation' is a heavy load to bear, but the good news is that we found away to fight through it (Ben was the 'poster child' for how important the mental aspect can be) to get to the 'Sweet 16'.

Now, we go down to 'Big D' where despite being a 2 pt. favorite in Vegas, we are being made to feel like the 'underdog' (no waaaay Michigan is a 4 Seed!) by all the pundits. THIS is when the mental aspect works in OUR favor as every single time we either had our 'manhood' challenged in a big, nationally-televised game (e.g., @ Ohio St., Temple), or HAD to win to preseve our 9th straight Big 12 Championship (e.g., @ KSU, @ OSU, @ ISU), or win yet another Big 12 Tourney Title (e.g., beating both ISU and KSU to silence the critics/doubters/haters), the Hawks stepped up and performed at a higher level than previously thought possible.

We will do so again today in Dallas and the Jayhawks WILL prevail over the Wolverines by playing KANSAS Basketball . . . KU 79 Michigan 71 . . . RCJH!

eric poncharello 1 year, 7 months ago

I can not believe how some folks can be around a team for many months and still do not see what type of team Bill Self has captivated as a culture like no other program out there. I'm not going to break it down since some folks have not realized what's about to take place when Kansas plays UM today. I'll just say this, Kansas will beat UM like no other, Kansas is on another level of intensity and toughness all teams can only talk about. I Love my team KANSAS!

justanotherfan 1 year, 7 months ago

The difference (and danger) of Michigan as opposed to what KU faced against UNC is that Burke won't force shots when he drives. His specialty (besides the floater) is to drive and kick out to his shooters. That's what makes him so dangerous in this particular game. If he's driving and kicking to shooters on the wings, things could come apart for KU very quickly.

The positive for KU is that they should be able to get the ball to the rim against Michigan, which should help their offense break out. Still, a game that may play into the high 70s or low 80s isn't a recipe for success for this KU team. Best case scenario, KU keeps this score in the 60s and forces Michigan to get stops (something they haven't done consistently), and wins a grind it out game.

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 7 months ago

Limit the careless turnovers. We could have had an extra 15 possesions or so each of the last two games if we had taken care of the ball more. As the competition gets better we wont be able to afford jump passes that go out of bounds, out let passes that are over the head, no more weak cross court passes that lead to dunks, no driving into players that are set, etc

Hard D, box out and take what they give us!

Rock Chalk

Tuskin 1 year, 7 months ago

I prefer playing teams that have one really great guard, because we can put Releford on him for a one-man doubleteam!

This matchup has me eager, worried, excited, nervous... We have the decided advantage inside. We need our guards to be at their best today!

John Fitzgerald 1 year, 7 months ago

The only way we win this game is if we have fun. When our guys have fun, we are unstoppable. And in order to have fun, we have to be confident in our abilities. Show some game film of the games they've had a blast in, namely the senior night game. If we don't go on the court smiling, we won't leave the court smiling. I'm confident our guys can play their strong D and hold Michigan enough to get a win. Why? We beat Ohio St on their own court and they didn't. Also, if you look at their past 12 games, they haven't won 3 in a row. I think our chances are better than what's been noted, but again, we have to have fun. Either way it turns out, this has been a surprising season nonetheless and I'm proud of our guys. RCJH AND HERE'S TO BENNY BREAKING OUT AND SCORING 30 POINTS!

Phil Leister 1 year, 7 months ago

Regression to the mean, people. Ben is due for a breakout game.

machinegun 1 year, 7 months ago

I am picking KU by 11 primarily because Big Bill is our Coach. Why would anyone pick a inexperienced Michigan? I agree with JayBate. Keep an eye on the referees. We will have to see how the game is being officiated. So what if Trey Burke is all everything. How about our players?

Elijah-a great leader and our most valuable player. In pressure situations, he is as dangerous as any player in the country. He proved that last year and against Iowa State this year with the game and the Big 12 Championship on the line. We need Elijah on the court during crunch time.

Travis-we know how important this warrior is to our team. We saw what he did against North Carolina. A man possessed, he put the team on his back. He is our best stopper. Travis is one of our most reliable three point shooters.

Jeff-the best shot blocker in the country. When he got poked in the eye, he was the meanest player on the court. Did you see those slam dunks in the 2nd half against UNC? Tomahawk that ball Jeff! When Michigan resorts to the double or triple team, he can pass it over the top to Kevin for a slam dunk or kick it back out to Elijah or Travis for a "trey".

Kevin-nobody and I mean nobody can roam the court as well as he does. Kevin is really important because he provides a lift whenever we need it. When I see his smiling face, it just gives me a lift. Whether it is layups on the far side of the basket like UNC or just feeding the ball to the Jeff, Kevin can change the outcome of the game.

Naadir-let the young man jack it up. When he is in rhythm, we don't need any big guys underneath because it is going in the basket. Naa is our best ball handler and our best free throw shooter. His success in bringing up the ball will be a key to victory.

Perry-the young man can go with either hand dribbling to the basket and he can shoot right or left handed. When given the opportunity, he can take control of a game just as he did during the Big 12 tournament.

Jamari-a young T-Rob. He is very strong and he is from Chicago. Jamari probably wants to beat Michigan real bad. Afforded the opportunity, he could give somebody a quick blow before scheduled timeouts.

BMac-he can shoot lights out (over 40% on threes and over 85% from the line). BMac is going to shine under the lights of Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

Maybe someone else gets to shine: Andrew White III, Rio Adams, etc. They could give us a basket or two if they can get in the game.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 7 months ago

Here’s the wrap. Jeff has to be Jeff Ghost has to be Ghost Jelly has to be Jelly It this happens we need only Steady Eddie from the guards. If the Prophet, Benny Mack and/or Naa take it to another level like they have at times. Then the Big 3 can be less than themselves and we are still in it. We have been jobbed by the officiating and that can lead to more turnovers than we can afford. This being said it will be up to Michigan to play out of their asses to stay with us and they have been much less consistent than the Jayhawks. This is Texas. I wonder what fried wolverine would taste like. No steamed veggies with that, either.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 7 months ago

Looking for 3 El Kabong moments each half!!!!!!!!!

SCHNBALL 1 year, 7 months ago

Turnovers: I think we must stay under -7 in turnovers to win..

Tony Bandle 1 year, 7 months ago

YOU KNOW YOUR BEING DISRESPECTED WHEN;

1] You are the early game.

2] You are the early game on TBS.

3] All you hear is how Florida Gulf Coast is America's Team in America's Team football Stadium.

4] No one mentions your school's name about anything.

5] Doug Gottlieb doesn't even make an asinine comment about you.

6] When you hear the phrase ".....Louisville and that other remaining #1 Seed."

7] The talking heads are already drooling over the Michigan/Florida matchup.

Adam Tyler 1 year, 7 months ago

Lets get a huge game from Withey complemented by solid rebounding efforts from Young and Ellis to keep the Wolverines from second and third shot opportunities. Hopefully Ben will see his shot go down early and he shows the nation what he is capable of doing on the court. As long as our defense is solid and we avoid terribly long scoring lulls, we have a great shot at winning and advancing to the Elite 8.

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK GO KU!!!

Robin Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

Mentally, this is an incredibly lopsided game in favor of Kansas.

Michigan is 6-6 before they played two teams who were particularly susceptible to them.

Michigan is 2-6 against KU-caliber defenses and none of them were as good as Kansas, nor did they have Withey.

Michigan is inexperienced, playing under pressure they've never seen before, in a dome, and that doesn't lend to good shooting for them.

Michigan has won nothing, proven they can win when it matters never. This is too much for them.

Kansas is going to throttle them.

VaJay 1 year, 7 months ago

Some great posts above that provide some effective counterpoints to most of the "experts" on TV picking UM.

I also just noticed on "Around the Horn" 3 out of 4 picked the 'Hawks!

That's still not helping my jitters that are increasing by the HOUR!!

Go Hawks!

jclav 1 year, 7 months ago

You clowns really called this one! NOT What a bunch of egomaniac's. Where did Big Jeff Go? Must have left the arena at the half!

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