Michigan Basketball: Five Questions Heading Into March
5. Will Michigan win at Ohio State on January 28th?
Winning at Ohio State won't be easy—it never is, right? The bad news is the Buckeyes have only lost twice at home this year—once to #9 Michigan State and once to West Virginia. The good news is the Buckeyes have only played one top 25 the whole year (see Michigan State above).
The first time Michigan and Ohio State played this season, the Bucks got the better of the Maize and Blue. Ohio State out-rebounded the Wolverines and shot an impressive 54.5% from the floor, while Michigan shot only 35.7%.
Expect Michigan to carry forward momentum from the Northwestern game and bounce back from a poor shooting performance their last time out against Ohio State. A win against Ohio State would be a great lift for Michigan, and I expect nothing less than a victory.
4. What's wrong with Laval Lucas-Perry?
The Arizona transfer has gone cold in recent weeks, including 0-4 from 3 point range against Ohio State and 0-6 from beyond-the-arc at Penn State.
Even though Lucas-Perry has seemingly lost his shooting touch, look for Belein to continue to give him the green light. A talent like Lucas-Perry can only stay cold for so long, and when he gets hot, the Wolverines will be as scary as anyone.
3. Where does Michigan need to improve most?
Michigan relies on an abundance of three point shooting, which is fine if they are getting open looks. The problem is that teams have been focusing on defending the perimeter, making it hard for guys like Novak, Douglass, and Lucas-Perry to get open looks.
It will be important for Michigan to find DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson inside when their three point shooters are struggling. Against Northwestern, Michigan did well to get the ball into Sims and Gibson, which allowed their perimeter shooters to get some decent looks. The result was a solid win.
An inside presence is key for scoring easy buckets and for opening up the perimeter for Michigan's sharp shooters. If Michigan can free up some outside looks by looking inside early on, their outside shooters will make it rain.
2. How many more games does Michigan need to win in order to make the NCAA Tournament?
The common consensus before Big Ten season started was that Michigan needed to go .500 in Big Ten play in order to make the tournament. With 10 more games remaining, and the Wolverines at 4-4 in Big Ten play, that means the Maize and Blue need to pick up half of their remaining Big Ten games to feel pretty secure about making the tournament.
Of course, you have to take into consideration who the wins and losses come against, but five more Big Ten wins—even with a loss to UConn—should secure a tournament birth for Michigan.
I also considered that Tommy Amaker's Michigan teams went .500 in Big Ten play three different times in three 20+ win seasons. However, Amaker also didn't knock off #4 (now #1) Duke and #4 UCLA in those years.
1. Which Michigan team will show up to end the season? The giant killers or the slumping shooters?
It's no secret that when your team relies on the three-point shot, you may experience some variance as the year goes on. You can be downright dangerous one day and abysmal the next. In its three consecutive Big Ten losses, Michigan shot a combined 35.7% from the floor, including 25.9% from downtown.
It's been said that if you live by the outside shot, you die by the outside shot. As Michigan continues to rely on outside shooting, they will surely go through hot and cold streaks as the season progresses.
However, like I mentioned earlier, if the Wolverines can create a presence inside with Sims and Gibson, it will open up the perimeter. Even though Michigan will and should continue to rely on the outside shot, if they can create some chances inside, they will Dance in March, and maybe even kill some giants when they get there.
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