Who: Houston Baptist Huskies (2-5)
When: Saturday, December 5th, at 2:00 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Where: Crisler Center -- Ann Arbor, Mich.
Spread: Vegas: TBA | KenPom: W, 83-60 (98% WP)
Michigan gets to take a quick breather after it just endured a 12-day stretch during which it faced five teams total and four in the KenPom top 75, three of which were away from Ann Arbor. Though Michigan lost the first two to #14 Xavier and #20 UConn, the Wolverines bounced back strongly with quality victories against #48 Texas and #65 North Carolina State. Michigan has one final marquee non-conference matchup (#26 SMU) next week, so this is an opportunity for Derrick Walton to rest his sprained left ankle, Zak Irvin to regain his confidence as a shooter, and Michigan to earn an easy win.
Houston Baptist is bad. The Huskies have been a Division I program since 2008-09, and, in those seven seasons, they have not finished with more than 10 wins four times or with a KenPom rank better than #314. This season won't be much different. Houston Baptist has a 2-5 record and is #324 on KenPom. The Huskies' two wins were against #276 Rice and Crowley's Ridge, which competes in the National Christian College Athletic Association, and their five losses all are by double digits to teams in the KenPom top 225. Further, Michigan will be the best team that Houston Baptist has faced, and, when the Huskies came to Ann Arbor two years ago, Michigan took them to the woodshed, 107-53.
On offense, there is only one thing that Houston Baptist does particularly well: get to the free-throw line. The Huskies are 87th in free-throw rate (43 FTA per 100 FGA) and make 73 percent of their shots at the line. But, if Houston Baptist can't draw shooting fouls, they're hopeless. They are 317th in eFG% (44.2 2P% and 27.9 3P%), 271st in turnover rate (20.6 pct.), and 206th in offensive rebounding rate (29.2 pct.). The offense doesn't have much flow or rhythm either. Rather, there is lots of isolation and penetration, which is evidenced by the Huskies' low assist (295th) and three-point-attempt (324th) rates. It also explains why getting to the free-throw line is the only thing they can do decently.
It's not much better on defense for Houston Baptist. In fact, it's worse. The Huskies are 330th in adjusted defensive efficiency because teams can score on them from pretty much anywhere. They've allowed opponents to make 55.3 percent of their twos (320th) and 36.3 percent of their threes (242nd). Teams haven't fired many threes against them (94th in 3PA%), but that's because wide-open layups are common as Houston Baptist has allowed opponents to convert 71.6 percent of their shots at the rim -- the sixth-worst rate in the nation. And, on the rare occasion that opponents miss their first shot, they haven't had much trouble grabbing the rebound because Houston Baptist is 324th in defensive rebounding rate (62.1 pct.). The Huskies are average in other areas -- 181st in turnover rate and 215th in free-throw rate -- but that is not nearly sufficient to stop the bleeding.
There are few teams that use their bench as much as Houston Baptist does. The Huskies are fourth in the percentage of minutes that are allocated to their reserves. This is further cemented by the fact that 11 players average at least 10 MPG but none of them average more than 25 MPG. It will seem like Houston Baptist is making line changes.
Not that doing or not doing so will make a difference in the result.
Houston Baptist's go-to player on offense is 6-foot-4, fifth-year senior Anthony Odunsi, who averages 13.1 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.4 SPG. Given that he leads the team in usage rate (28.7 pct.) and has the highest assist rate among the Huskies' guards (23.2 pct.), Odunsi seems to be the starting point guard. However, despite having the ball in his hands often, he doesn't take good care of it, posting a turnover rate of 25.5 percent. Odunsi is the epitome of Houston Baptist's offense. He doesn't shoot threes, and almost all of his points come from attacking the rim. Seventy percent of his shots are layups or dunks, and only 21.7 percent of those makes are assisted. Plus, he's taken almost as many free throws (40) as field goals (42) and is an 80-percent free-throw shooter. Defensively, Odunsi is a solid rebounder (13.8 DR%) and can be a bit of a pick-pocket (2.9 stl%).
The other starting guards are 6-foot-3 junior Reveal Chukwujekwu and 6-foot-4 senior Jourdan Stickler. Like Odunsi, Chukwujekwu attacks the rim with the hope he'll draw a shooting foul (80.0 FTR, 75.0 FT%), but he can't finish if the whistle isn't blown (32.1 2P%). He can be a pest on the glass, though (12.7 OR%, 17.9 DR%). On the other hand, Stickler is a shooter that worsens the closer he gets. He's made only 3-of-18 twos (16.7 pct.) but 6-of-16 threes (37.5 pct.). He's the only respectable outside threat the Huskies have. When Stickler tries to do anything else, he tends to turn the ball over (20.5 TO%).
There are three guards that will come off the bench to spot Odunsi, Chukwujekwu, and Stickler. The first is 6-foot-4 sophomore Trey Patterson, who penetrates with impunity (53.3 2P% and 125.0 FTR) but coughs up the ball at an abominable rate (34.8 TO%). The second is 6-foot-3 senior Caleb Crayton, who can score around the rim (57.1 2P%) but struggles to hit shots from outside (2-of-9 3P) and is more likely to pass the ball to his opponent than his teammates (0.0 ast% and 32.0 TO%). And the third is 6-foot-3 freshman Asa Cantwell, who essentially is a shooter (23 3PA to four 2PA) who can't shoot (30.4 3P%). There is a fourth guard, 6-foot-6 sophomore Terry Harris, who had 15 MPG in the first five games but hasn't played in the last two games for reasons unknown.
Houston Baptist will start 6-foot-7 junior Colter Lasher at the 4. Lasher receives the most playing time on the roster (24.9 MPG), but his abilities as a stretch forward don't seem to justify it. He's made only 41.4 percent of his twos and 28 percent of his threes. Plus, Lasher likes to hang around the perimeter because he provides little in the rebounding department (2.9 OR%, 9.6 DR%). Behind Lasher is 6-foot-7 junior Alex Fountain, who hasn't attempted a shot at the rim in 16 field-goal attempts, has made only 30.8 percent of his twos and none of his threes, but grabs boards at an OK rate (7.1 OR%).
At center, the Huskies will start 6-foot-11 sophomore Josh Ibarra, who's actually a pretty good player. He converts well around the rim and can take a step back or two for a nice little jumper. He made 62.9 percent of his twos last season and is on track to post a two-point percentage somewhere in that area this season (59.5 2P%). He has great vision and ball skills for a post, registering a team-best assist rate of 25.1 percent and a low turnover rate of 14.8 percent. And, on defense, he's an excellent rebounder (22.9 DR%) and shot-blocker (5.7 blk%). However, Ibarra's biggest issue is that he cannot stay on the floor. He averages only 17.4 MPG because he commits 7.9 fouls per 40 minutes. It doesn't take much for him to get into foul trouble. When that happens, Houston Baptist will bring in 6-foot-9 junior Cody Stetler, who isn't much of a scorer (42.1 2P%), is a solid rebounder (10.1 OR%, 13.1 DR%), and gets into even worse foul trouble than Ibarra (11.7 FC/40). This development sometimes forces Houston Baptist to slide a forward down to the 5 spot.
Finish Your Layups: There will be plenty.
Boost Zak Irvin's Confidence: Irvin still doesn't seem 100 percent, which isn't a surprise for someone returning from back surgery. While he's made some nice plays with the pick and roll, whether it is penetrating into the paint or finding his teammates for open looks, he still doesn't look comfortable with his outside shot. He seemed hesitant to fire, and that may partially explain why he's drilled only 5-of-28 threes (17.9 3P%) this season. Michigan needs Irvin to return to his former gunner self (38.1 3P% as freshman and sophomore) because it's extremely unlikely that Derrick Walton (63.6 3P%), Duncan Robinson (60.6 3P%), and Caris LeVert (51.7 3P%) will sustain their three-point shooting.
Sink the Defense: Other than Jourdan Stickler, Houston Baptist doesn't have a player that can consistently make outside shots. In fact, most of them prefer to put their head down, drive into the lane, and try to finish at the rim or draw a foul. Thus, on defense, Michigan should play a few feet below the three-point line and induce the Huskies to put up jumpers rather than penetrate or go inside to Josh Ibarra. Generally, Michigan would want to zone a team with this offensive profile, but Houston Baptist doesn't warrant it.
Prop Up Derrick Walton's Left Foot Appropriately on the Bench: Michigan needs his left ankle to heal as much as it possibly can before the showdown with SMU on Tuesday.
You'll flip the channel to college football at halftime.
Michigan 93, Houston Baptist 51