Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
So...you're telling me there's a chance?
Iowa (11-3) vs. Michigan (14-0)
Date: January 6, 2013
Time: 11:00 am CT
Location: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
Line: Michigan -13.5
Here's something obscure for you: Iowa last played Monday against Indiana, who entered the game leading the nation in Kenpom offensive efficiency. Iowa did enough in that game to knock them down to #2. Their replacement as the nation's most efficient offensive team? Michigan. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.
Michigan is a perfect 14-0 and getting some fairly serious consideration for a Big Ten championship. Their only conference game to date was a 94-66 pounding of Northwestern Thursday, in which the Wolverines shot 59.6% from the field, made an absurd 59.1% from behind the three-point arc, and outrebounded the Wildcats 37-21. Overall, Michigan is second nationally in two-point field goal percentage (57.4%) and tenth in three-point field goal percentage (40.6%). Not coincidentally, the Wolverines are second in the country in effective field goal shooting. Throw in an absurdly low 15.3% turnover percentage (Michigan turns it over in less than one out of every six possessions), and you can see why they're the most efficient offensive team in the nation.
Any discussion of Michigan starts with Trey Burke, who is currently third in Kenpom's player of the year rankings. Burke is averaging 18.1 points per game, with an additional 7.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per contest. Burke, as a guard, is shooting a ridiculous 53.8% from the field. Again, that's a 6-foot guard we're talking about. Tim Hardaway Jr. adds 16.2 ppg and 5.0 rpg for Michigan, with freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III also in double figures.* The Wolverines have plenty of size in their starting frontcourt, and get more off the bench from Mitch McGary and Jon Horfort.
Defensively, John Beilein gave up his dogmatic dedication to the 1-3-1 zone a couple of years ago and is now reaping the rewards. Michigan runs a variety of man and zone defenses. The Wolverines don't force a great number of turnovers or block many shots, and teams have shot moderately well against them. However, Michigan does not allow second chance points -- more than 75% of opponent misses are rebounded by the Wolverines, good for seventh nationally -- and does not put opponents on the free throw line. If you're going to beat Michigan, you're going to have to make shots, something that has been occasionally difficult for Iowa.
This is not a veteran outfit. The Wolverines have seven upperclassmen on the roster, but only two of them -- Morgan and Hardaway -- play significant minutes. In fact, Michigan's five seniors average 18.5 minutes per game total. While that inexperience might play to an opponent's advantage during an early-season road game, it means little when they are at home, and the Wolverines have obliterated opponents at Crisler this year. Michigan is 8-3 against the spread in home games. Two of those three beaten spreads came against Arkansas and Central Michigan, which run at approximately the same pace as Iowa. There may be some opportunity to use the transition game to spur the tempo and take Michigan out of their element, but it's not as if Michigan actually lost either of those games.
There is a little reason for hope in these figures. For one, Michigan is nowhere near the terrible stylistic matchup that Indiana was. They are far more reliant on outside shooting and size in the paint, which play to Iowa's defensive strengths, and far less destructive in transition. For another, Iowa's defense has gotten pretty damn good in recent weeks. The only two teams on Michigan's schedule-to-date that are defensive comparables, Kansas State and Pittsburgh, held Michigan to 71 and 67 points, respectively, and Iowa is better than those teams in key components like opposing three-point percentage.
It's certainly not a likely win for Iowa -- it's right there with later road trips to Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio State for toughest game on the schedule -- but it's not a surefire loss by any means. There's a chance. We're telling you there's a chance.
* -- Yes, this game will include the progeny of Roy Marble, Tim Hardaway, and Glenn Robinson. Yes, they all named their sons after themselves. Yes, I do feel quite old today.