Can Michigan Upset Wisconsin in Madison Today?Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on January 18th, 2014
Michigan has slightly fallen under the radar after starting the season in the top 10 of the national polls, even though they’ve jumped out to a 4-0 start in conference play without All-America candidate Mitch McGary. This unblemished record will be challenged mightily when the Wolverines travel to Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon (5:00 CST, ESPN). Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso answered some questions in advance of this key contest that will help determine who will ultimately win the league.
Both teams are in the top seven nationally in both offensive efficiency and in turnover percentage, yet they both play at a relatively slow tempo. Who wins the battle of these potent offenses on Saturday?
AM: Wisconsin is coming off of an inexplicable loss to Indiana on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers shocked the college basketball world by upsetting the Badgers and exposing a weakness in their 25th-ranked defense by driving effectively to the rim. About 60 percent of Indiana’s shots were at the cup, where the Badgers are allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent. Michigan, however, is much more of a jump-shooting team as only 24 percent of their shots are under the rim. Wisconsin’s defense thrives at making their opponents take bad looks when they are shooting jumpers (less than 35 percent). For this reason, I’m betting the Badgers stifle Michigan’s offense on Saturday while their own offense takes care of business.
BB: Every team in the B1G other than Wisconsin and Michigan have seen their offensive efficiency numbers plummet once they’ve started playing conference games. This won’t be a shootout in the traditional sense because neither team plays fast, but they’ve both demonstrated that they can put points on the board. Indiana could have won by more than it did had they (mainly Yogi Ferrell) made more than 4-of-14 of their shots from behind the three-point line. If Wisconsin allows Michigan the same opportunities from outside the arc, they have much better shooters than the Hoosiers and will make the Badgers pay.
Sam Dekker and Glenn Robinson III should spend a decent part of the day guarding each other. Neither have particularly gaudy numbers individually, but they’ve both had their moments and both should eventually make their way to the NBA. Who’s more likely to get the better of the other one in this game?
AM: Dekker is the leading scorer for a balanced Badgers team with 14.0 PPG. He likes to get his buckets mostly at the rim (half his shots) but can also hit from deep (35.1 percent from three). I like him to get the best of Robinson because he should be able to take advantage of him down low. Michigan needs Robinson to step up and carry the offense since McGary has been sidelined. In the last three games, Robinson has been averaging over 33 minutes per game. I’ll count on the Wolverines needing him to do it again, forcing him to conserve his energy on the defensive end. This should give Dekker the opportunity to establish himself in the post early in the game, which could then set him up for some decent looks beyond the arc later in the contest. It could be a big game for Dekker on Saturday.
BB: In this day and age where something trending on Twitter is always a catch phrase, Robinson is definitely trending upward. He’s moved up to fifth in the conference in offensive rating for players who have used 20 percent or more of their team’s possessions (119.5 offensive rating). He’s shooting 61.3 percent on two-pointers in Michigan’s four conference games, showing the ability to hit mid-range shots and get to the basket. Dekker isn’t that far behind him, but he’s been kind of quiet in conference games other than against Illinois (17 points on 6-of-8 shooting). Robinson is more important to Michigan than Dekker is for Wisconsin because the Badgers have other players who can hurt you offensively. Everyone in Wisconsin’s lineup has led the team in scoring at least twice in their 17 games played, while the Wolverines generally need to get their points from either Nik Stauskas, Caris LaVert of Robinson. I’m not saying that he is the better player of the two, just that by the way he’s been playing and with how important he is to his team, he’ll have the bigger day Saturday.