Who: Youngstown State Penguins (5-6)
When: Saturday, December 19th, at 6:00 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Where: Crisler Center -- Ann Arbor, Mich.
Michigan moves on to its penultimate game of a non-conference schedule that hasn't been challenging in almost two weeks. The Wolverines beat their last two opponents, #347 Delaware State and #253 Northern Kentucky, comfortably, and this is another game in which they should do the same. Other than avoiding a bad loss, Michigan's goals in this game are the same as they have been recently: (1) get healthy; and (2) set the rotation.
Michigan's health continues to improve. Last game, Derrick Walton returned from a sprained left ankle and performed very well. He looks to be 100 percent or close to it, and hopefully there won't be any setbacks tomorrow. D.J. Wilson, who's missed the previous two games with a right ankle sprain, could be available, too. And, with Michigan's health almost intact, John Beilein may have hinted as to what Michigan's rotation will be during the Big Ten season. Against Northern Kentucky, only seven Wolverines earned more than 10 minutes, and Aubrey Dawkins and Moritz Wagner weren't in that group. We will see how Beilen distributes the minutes tomorrow.
Youngstown State is 5-6 and ranked 257th on KenPom. The Penguins don't have a semi-quality win on their resume. The best opponent they have beaten is #282 Robert Morris, and two of their five wins are against D-III schools (Thiel and Geneva). The only top-100 opponent they've faced is unbeaten Purdue, who routed them by 31 points last weekend.
Youngstown State is an average offensive team, sitting 183rd in adjusted offensive efficiency (101.5). YSU's strength is its ability to hold onto the basketball as YSU is 41st in turnover rate (15.7 pct.). The Penguins also are a middling outfit from the field. They're 191st in eFG% (48.6 pct.) and not particularly better from inside (213th in 2P%) or outside the arc (162nd in 3P%). However, Youngstown State seems to shoot lots of jumpers and doesn't get to the rim often. YSU is 104th in three-point rate (38.1 pct.) and 307th in percentage of shots at the rim (30.6). This also likely explains why YSU is 275th in offensive rebounding rate (26.0 pct.) and 335th in free-throw rate (25.4 pct.) this year.
It's on the other end of the floor where things fall apart for Youngstown State. The Penguins are just 312th in adjusted defensive efficiency (108.3), and there's not one area where they shine. They're 266th in eFG% (52.4 pct.), allowing opponents to make 51.9 percent of their twos (265th) and 35.4 percent of their threes (220th). YSU tends to surrender lots of looks from deep as well (309th in 3PA%). Further, the Penguins are 228th in turnover rate (17.7 pct.) and 199th in defensive rebounding rate (69.0 pct.). If there is one spot where YSU is above average, it's not committing fouls (135th in FTR).
Youngstown State has gone with the same starting lineup in all 11 games, but it's its sixth man that might be its best player. 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Cameron Morse is the team's leading scorer (14.4 PPG) and one of its most efficient offensive weapons (111.5 ORtg) despite coming off the bench. Not only is he a great three-point shooter (40.0 pct.) that can make them off the bounce, he can score around the rim (64.3 pct.) and get to the line (40.3 FTR), where he knocks down his free throws (83.9 pct.). Morse also is a pest on defense. He's tallied at least two steals in all but one game this season, and his 4.5-percent steal rate is 31st in the nation. Ball-handlers must be careful with Morse on them.
The guards that get the start ahead of Morse are 6-foot-1 sophomore Francisco Santiago and 6-foot-3 junior college transfer Brett Frantz. Santiago is the point guard, averaging 9.4 PPG, 4.2 APG, and 3.6 RPG in 31.0 MPG. He's just as likely to shoot inside the three-point line (19-46 for 41.3 2P%) as he is outside of it (14-43 for 32.6 3P%), and, as you can see, he doesn't convert that well from either spot. As a distributor, Santiago is one of the best on the team, but his turnover rate (20.0 pct.) nearly matches his assist rate (21.4 pct.). Frantz is a placeholder at shooting guard until Morse enters. He's barely involved in the offense (11.5 usg%) because he's a shooter (73.7 3PA%) who can't shoot (28.6 3P%).
The starting forwards are 6-foot-7 junior Matt Donlan and 6-foot-7 sophomore Sidney Umude, and they have very different roles. Donlan is a sharpshooter (42.6 3P%) who has made at least two triples in each of his last five games and connects on mid-range jumpers, too. He tries to hang around the perimeter as much as he can because he loses his effectiveness the closer he gets to the rim, having converted less than half of his layups and dunks. On the other hand, Umude is a thrasher inside. All of his field-goal attempts are twos, though he's not an efficient scorer (45.2 2P%). He grabs lots of offensive boards (8.2 OR%) but can lose control of the ball (21.5 TO%). He also stuffs lots of shots (4.2 blk%). Umude's not a heavy guy (205 lbs.), but he's not a graceful one either.
The center, 6-foot-10 senior Bobby Hain, rivals Morse as the Penguins' best player, averaging 14.0 PPG and 7.4 RPG. Hain has been eerily consistent in his last three seasons with regards to his scoring, shooting, efficiency, and rebounding. Almost half of his shots are layups or dunks, of which he finishes a more-than-respectable two-thirds, and he can step back and hit the mid-range shot. However, once he starts moving beyond 12 feet and into three-point land, he's out of his range. Hain's also a very good rebounder on both ends (7.4 OR% and 17.6 DR%). The one area where Hain hasn't been consistent is his passing. His assist rate has improved from 8.2 percent to 17.2 percent in two seasons.
In addition to Morse, Youngstown State will play three other reserves. One of them usually is seven-foot Oral Roberts transfer Jorden Kaufman, a so-so scorer who's an excellent rebounder, but he didn't play in YSU's last game against Geneva for reasons I don't know. In his place, the Penguins went with 6-foot-9 freshman Bryce Nickels, who had 10 points and seven boards but also turned over the ball four times against the D-III school. The other reserves are two freshmen, 5-foot-11 point guard Latin Davis and 6-foot-5 wing Jordan Andrews. Neither can shoot -- Davis' eFG% is 37.5, while Andrews' is 37.0 -- but Davis can handle the ball and create looks for his teammates (24.5 ast%).
Stick to the Shooters: Youngstown State doesn't appear to be a team that attacks the rim often, relying more on outside shooting. YSU's two best shooters are Matt Donlan (42.6 3P%) and Cameron Morse (40.0 3P%), while no other Penguin is reliable from deep. Though Donlan can make mid-range jumpers and Morse can score around the bucket, the best chance for Youngstown State to upset Michigan is if those two get hot from three. If Michigan can close out on them effectively, Michigan should be in good shape.
Halt Hain: Northern Kentucky 6-foot-6 center Jalen Billups just punished Michigan inside for 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and now the Wolverines face another talented center. Bobby Hain, though, is 6-foot-10, which means that Ricky Doyle, Mark Donnal, and Moritz Wagner won't have a size advantage this time. Michigan's centers need to be strong and not permit Hain to back them up in the post. If they can do that, Hain will have a much tougher time scoring, and Michigan should corral his misses because the Penguins are not a team that crashes the offensive glass seeking second-chance points.
Eviscerate Another Inferior Defense: Michigan is 20th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Youngstown State is 312th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Points shouldn't be an issue.
Stay Healthy: This remains the most important key.
Michigan has beaten every team outside the KenPom top 100 it's faced by at least 15 points. Though Michigan's defense may be sloppy at times, that shouldn't change.
Michigan 87, Youngstown State 66