Michigan vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology
Saturday, December 5th; Noon
The Wolverines get a bit of a break after a stretch of three tough games out of four thanks to the Legends Classic and ACC/B1G Challenge being nearly back to back this year. Michigan made it through that stretch 3-1, and very nearly a perfect 4-0 save a couple of great plays by Villanova down the stretch in Brooklyn.
In the meantime, Michigan will get another game that should prove a good learning experience for its younger players. The NJIT Highlanders are the kind of fast paced, turnover laden squad that Michigan feasts on lately. NJIT is 2-5 against a schedule that includes just one team in Kenpom's top-149 — Duquesne is 150 — which is St. Johns, who beat the Highlanders by 19 to open the season.
Offensively NJIT is characterized by its fast pace and utter inability to hold onto the ball. At 69.4 adj tempo, NJIT is the 63rd fastest-paced team in the country. Of course, you need a lot of possessions when your turnover rate is 24.8 like the Highlanders. The shooting percentages are all average-ish on a team level, and NJIT actually takes a greater share of its shots from outside than Michigan does.
Damon Lynn is the name to know going into this one. He is in the level of uber-usage players, posting the 100th highest poss% and the 45th highest shot% in the nation. Now, his offensive rating is middling at best, in part because he doesn't finish inside the arc well (33% 2pt), doesn't get to the free throw line (24.3 FTrate), and turns it over too much (21.9 TOrate). Still, he averages 18 points and 3.5 assists per game. Lynn vs. Spike will be an interesting matchup when it happens.
Ky Howard is NJIT's other major scoring threat, averaging 12 points per game, Howard is a slashing wing that specializes in getting to the rim and alternately the free throw line. So far this year he has 38 free throw attempts compared to 36 2pt attempts. That is nuts. His 84.4 FTrate is 52nd in the country. The beauty of his game is that Howard finishes well both from the floor and the line. He is shooting 76% on free throws and 64% from inside the arc. Tim Coleman is a similar player in that he gets a lot of free throw opportunities relative to shots, although he doesn't shoot as well as Howard.
Also in the backcourt is guard Winfield Willis, a 6-foot junior that has the shot distribution of an old school John Beilein type guard, just nine percent of his shots are 2pt jump shots; layups and threes, baby. Odera Nweke is a forward that splits time with Daquan Holiday up front. Nweke is 6-foot-5 and Holiday is 6-foot-8, so Michigan should have a definitive advantage up front even when Mark Donnal or MaxBielfeldt check into the game.
This is an exceptionally short team that is bad at holding onto the ball. Meanwhile, Michigan has a starting lineup with four players over 6-foot-6, and Michigan as a team is currently 47th in the nation in adj Def. efficiency. If ever there was a game in which Michigan should dominate in all facets defensively, it would be this one.
Kenpom predicts a 21-point victory. I'd be surprised if it was that close.
Things I'd like to see:
- Ricky Doyle, destroyer of worlds. Michigan has thus far gotten nearly the best case scenario to unfold for Ricky Doyle's freshman year. He looks physically capable, and savvy enough to make heady plays and get Jordan Morgan-like position to rebound. Add in the little bit of Mitch McGary he has in him (think Bull in a china shop) and you have a potential answer for Michigan come Big Ten play. But he isn't there yet. This game sets up well for him to dominate. I'd like to see that.
- Derrick Walton? I'd like to see Walton, but he seemed out of sorts against Syracuse, and with Arizona a week away it might be worth it to shelve him for this one. Methinks Spike can handle himself.
- Aubrey Dawkins. One thing that has been going unnoticed lately is the share of minutes Zak Irvin and Caris LeVert have been playing as the competition has gone up. Michigan doesn't have much of an answer as backup at the two or three spot, and this is especially hampered when Derrick Walton is limited and Michigan can't roll its two-PG lineup out. John Beilein needs one of his freshmen wings to step up this year into a ~10 minute per game role. Dawkins is the best bet.