Michigan vs. Villanova, 10pm, ESPN2
Villanova's short path to the Legends Classic championship game was decidedly less contentious, as the Wildcats blitzed VCU after halftime last night, going on a 30-13 run in the first ten minutes after the break to blow the game wide open.
Nova is deep and experienced, with a rotation that goes eight or nine deep including three juniors and two seniors. So far, that lineup is playing overmatched non-conference opponents how you would expect. Nova has been among the best teams in the country at avoiding turnovers on offense (10th in TO% nationally), while forcing turnovers on well over a quarter of opponent possessions (9th nationally). Combine this with effective shooting (51% eFG% as a team thus far) and solid rebounding numbers on both sides, and the Wildcats have pretty much run everyone off the floor.
That is, everyone but Bucknell, a team Michigan shelled into oblivion. Bucknell managed to take 37 three point shots against Villanova, and hit 19 of them. That was enough to keep the Bison in the game despite turnovers on 30% of possessions.
Meanwhile, Michigan just showed a huge weakness on the defensive glass where an athletic Oregon team was able to rebound nearly half of its misses and keep the score close in a game where Michigan's offense never hit its next gear to push the game out of reach.
Michigan will have to deal with with Ryan Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis in the back court. Arcidiacono is back as the starter at the point and has improved his assist and turnover rates so far this year, although his three point shooting has yet to come along (last year he hit 35% from outside). Ennis is stepping into major minutes after an supplementaryrole last year and so far leads the team with 8/20 on three point attempts.
Seniors Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston are both back as well. Hilliard is currently looking for his shooting stroke, having hit just 19% of his 21 attempts this year after hitting 41% of 169 attempts last year. Don't be surprised to see him get hot. Pinkston has been playing well in a sixth man role.
Inside, Michigan will get a tough test from returning starter Daniel Ochefu, a six-foot-eleven post that was nationally ranked in the top 100 in block rate last year, the top 150 in DR%, and just outside the top 250 in OR%.
Stuff to watch for:
- Derrick Walton hit the bench with foul trouble early against Oregon. He ended up playing just 24 minutes. Michigan needs him on the floor more often. Not only is he the best catalyst for transition offense, but he is the other primary option on offense outside of Caris LeVert when it comes to getting other players shots. Michigan needs Walton on the floor to keep up with Villanova.
- Can Ricky Doyle repeat his performance from Monday? He wasn't a force on the boards or defense, but he was opportunistic in ways Michigan hasn't yet seen from its young frontline players. Doyle is the biggest option, and if the mental aspect of the game has started to click for him it would be a big help.
- Speaking of freshmen, this game against VIllanova is likely going to require some spark from at least one of them to help get Michigan over the top. Kam Chatman has flashed the skill, but has yet to get comfortable shooting the ball. Meanwhile, Michigan hasn't seen much from its freshmen wing subs Aubrey Dawkins or MAAR.
Kenpom predicts a two point Villanova win. That sounds about right to me considering this Michigan team is still very reliant on its three back court players for offense. Don't count Michigan out, but it'll take a nice bounce back from Monday's somewhat lackluster performance to get the win over a talented Wildcat team.