Michigan vs. Northwestern: Wednesday's Preview

January 11th, 2012
While there aren't any matchups of ranked teams on Wednesday's schedule there are some important contests to keep an eye on, one of which being Northwestern (11-4, 1-2) visiting Ann Arbor to take on a #13 Michigan (13-3, 3-1) squad that's got the look of a Big Ten contender. If you like the three-point shot this is the game for you, as the Wildcats and Wolverines are the top two teams in the Big Ten when it comes to the percentage of points scored via the bonus shot (Northwestern 38.1%, Michigan 36.1%).

Bill Carmody and John Beilein run similar systems, but the focal points in regards to who takes the shots differ. Michigan enjoys more of an equitable distribution of shots, with guards Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg) and Trey Burke (13.8 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.4 rpg) leading the team in scoring. Three players average double figures for the maize and blue while three more average at least seven points per game, and as a team the Wolverines shoot 47.5% from the field.

Northwester on the other hand call on a pair of wings for the majority of their scoring, with John Shurna (18.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.8 apg) and Drew Crawford (17.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.9 apg) currently ranking as the conference's leading scoring duo. The Wildcats have three other players averaging between 6.0 and 8.4 points per game, but they have a much tougher time winning if either Crawford or Shurna were to go cold than Michigan would if one of their key players had a rough night.

Where this game will ultimately be decided is in the paint, especially when it comes to rebounding. Northwestern is the Big Ten's worst rebounding team when it comes to margin, as they're being out-rebounded by an average of nearly five rebounds per game. Michigan on the other hand has a margin of plus-3.3, and the tandem of Evan Smotrycz (10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Jordan Morgan (7.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are the chief producers.

As for the Wildcats, in addition to being their leading scorers Crawford and Shurna are also their leading rebounders, with senior forward Luka Mirkovic (7.4 ppg) being next in line with an average of 4.3 caroms per contest. He has to be a more consistent factor, both on Wednesday night as well as throughout the remainder of the season, if the Wildcats are to make good on their goal of earning the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. Northwestern allows an average of nearly 12 offensive rebounds per game, and if Michigan can take advantage of that area this could end in a double-digit margin in favor of the home team.

Another game that sticks out is a hot Southern Miss, winners of 11 straight, visiting Memphis in a matchup of two Conference USA contenders. Joe Jackson will need to play well at the point for the Tigers to be the factor many believe they can be despite a slow start exacerbated by a very difficult schedule. Will Barton's played like one of the best players in C-USA to this point in the year, but the addition of Darnell Dodson has been a nice boost for the Golden Eagles. 

There's also a pair of games in the Atlantic 10 to watch with Xavier hosting Duquesne and Temple visiting Saint Louis. Ron Everhart's Dukes are a middle of the pack team this season, but with T.J. McConnell and B.J. Monteiro leading their deep backcourt Duquesne has the ability to make things difficult on the Musketeers. But their lack of frontcourt depth could open things up for Andre Walker and Kenny Frease. As for the Owls, they're looking to rebound from their loss to Dayton on Saturday but it's going to be tough to do at Chaifetz. Rick Majerus' Billikens are led by Kwamain Mitchell, and they also have enough talent to win the A-10. 

Missouri's trip to Iowa State should be fun due to the fact that the Tigers will have to provide an answer for one of the tougher matchups in the Big 12 in forward Royce White. White led the Cyclones to an emphatic win at Texas A&M with a triple-double, and given how much of the offense Fred Hoiberg runs through him White could very well post another at some point this season.

Also in the Top 10 Syracuse, Kentucky and Kansas all hit the road for games they're expected to win, but the Orange had better be careful with a Villanova team that really needs a win of this magnitude. As for a good non-conference game, Denver visits Colorado State in the final tune-up for Mountain West play for the Rams. Joe Scott's got a Sun Belt contender on his hands, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Pioneers left Fort Collins with a win.  

Top 25 Games
7:00 PM (1) Syracuse at Villanova (ESPN2)
8:00 PM (2) Kentucky at Auburn (ESPN3)
8:00 PM (9) Missouri at Iowa State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (10) Kansas at Texas Tech
6:30 PM Northwestern at (13) Michigan (BTN)
7:00 PM St. John's at (24) Marquette

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Rhode Island at George Washington
7:00 PM Old Dominion at Delaware
7:00 PM Navy at Holy Cross
7:00 PM Charlotte at Massachusetts
7:00 PM William & Mary at Towson
7:00 PM Wake Forest at Maryland (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Dayton at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Akron at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Buffalo at Ohio
7:00 PM Rutgers at Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Longwood at Brown
7:00 PM Southern Miss at Memphis
7:00 PM Boston University at Maine
7:00 PM Army at Lafayette
7:00 PM New Hampshire at Albany
7:00 PM Colgate at Bucknell
7:00 PM Houston at UCF
7:00 PM Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan
7:00 PM Northeastern at Hofstra
7:00 PM Miami (OH) at Kent State
7:00 PM American at Lehigh
7:00 PM Stony Brook at UMBC
7:00 PM Fordham at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM Northern Illinois at Western Michigan
7:00 PM Duquesne at Xavier (CBS SN)
7:30 PM Northwestern State at Nicholls State
8:00 PM Marshall at UAB
8:00 PM Arkansas at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
8:00 PM UTEP at Tulsa
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at Central Arkansas (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Rice at SMU
8:00 PM Texas-Pan American at TCU
8:00 PM Morehead State at Tennessee State
8:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at UTSA
8:30 PM Penn State at Nebraska (BTN)
9:00 PM Denver at Colorado State (The Mtn.)
9:00 PM Temple at Saint Louis (CBS SN)
9:00 PM Georgia Tech at NC State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Texas A&M at Texas
9:00 PM LSU at Alabama (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Lamar at McNeese State