Despite a dismal showing in East Lansing, the Michigan Wolverines are heading in the right direction as we enter February. The postponements against Purdue and Michigan State have been scheduled, giving the opportunity for building up a resume that still needs some work. The Bracket Matrix currently has Michigan included in around just a quarter of all projected fields, so there is a long way to go.
While quality wins are pretty sparse, really any sort of win is helpful at this point. The Wolverines have slipped back to .500 in conference play, and there are not many easy matchups remaining. That is not the case on Tuesday, however, when a Nebraska team who Michigan beat by 35 already this year comes to Ann Arbor for what should be the simplest contest left on the schedule.
The Cornhuskers are winless in conference play and sit just 183rd in the country per Kenpom. This one should be a blowout, though efforts like that against Northwestern (in the second half) and this past weekend could make things unnecessarily uncomfortable. This team is well past wake-up call territory, so hopefully this is a purely ceremonial affair.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-15, 0-10) vs. Michigan Wolverines (10-8, 4-4)
Everyone had fun in the first game between these two teams, starting with the long-range shooting. Seven different players hit a three-pointer, including a 4-for-7 clip by Caleb Houstan and a combined 5-for-6 effort from the combination of Terrance Williams and Brandon Johns. The Huskers still rank last in the conference in three-point defense, so this path to victory should be open again.
The other factor is just pure athleticism, as Michigan has the better athletes on both ends. The best part from the weekend was Moussa Diabate, who scored 11 points on good shooting, snagged nine rebounds, and blocked three shots as well. He did not play in Lincoln, but he should really enjoy the matchup this time around.
In December, Alonzo Verge contributed nearly half of Nebraska’s points, scoring 31 as he completely took over for the Huskers. Verge is a high-usage guard with inefficient shooting but decent passing, and he could be a problem for Michigan’s backcourt again, which has not exactly been lockdown defensively. Still, this is the worst offense in the Big Ten and there are not a lot of great options around him, so he might need to repeat this performance to even give the visitors a chance.
The highlight to every game cannot be Hunter Dickinson, but the big sophomore was certainly Michigan’s plan over the weekend. The emergence of Diabate continues to help, but Dickinson is the lifeline for any postseason hopes for this squad. Again, size and talent should be enough to win this one, and if the frontcourt is on then this should be another blowout.
Verge may have damaged the Wolverines last time, but the focus will be on Bryce McGowens as well. Michigan locked up the top-30 freshman in Lincoln, but he will get plenty of looks and comes in as the team’s top scorer. Neither player is a big threat from deep, so staying in front of them as they drive to the hoop will be key. This concept has been a lot simpler than its execution for the defense this season.