The Michigan Wolverines face a gargantuan task when they face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Friday night for a trip to the Elite Eight.
Led by Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan averages 75.2 points and has won its two March Madness games by a combined score of 149-109.
The Wolverines have really stepped up defensively to this point, which is crucial after the Indiana Hoosiers and Wisconsin Badgers combined for 140 points versus Michigan prior to the NCAA tournament.
Unsurprisingly, Michigan dropped each of those games and entered the madness with some uncertainty. Although that's not the case entering the Sweet 16, the Jayhawks are on Indiana's offensive level and have the potential to be as defensively tough as the Badgers.
So, how can Michigan pull off the South Regional upset?
Let's break it down to find out.
Reduce Jayhawks' Offensive Opportunities
Kansas features an offense that averages 75.4 points and 39.1. That means that the Jayhawks are well versed when it comes to scoring at will and solid at converting on second-chance opportunities.
Although the Wolverines' defense has stepped up in impressive fashion the past two games, Kansas is a different monster compared to South Dakota State and VCU. To minimize the potential damage of Jayhawks coach Bill Self's offense, Michigan must rely on its offensive efficiency.
The Wolverines sport a 48.4 field-goal percentage and only turn the rock over an average of 9.3 times per game (ranked No. 1). By contrast, Kansas ranks No. 1 in opposing shooting percentage (35.7) and Michigan won't enjoy a consistent number of open looks.
To counteract the Jayhawks' defense, remaining patient and passing the ball to get Kansas moving around will open lanes. A byproduct of remaining patient is controlling the game tempo to limit the Jayhawks' possessions.
Draw Jeff Withey Out From Under the Rim
Jeff Withey has averaged 8.5 boards and nearly four blocks per contest this season. Each are more than any Michigan player by a wide margin.
As a result, expanding Withey's area of defense will create a bit more space in and around the paint.
Connecting on jumpers from the elbow and just inside the arc is key, as well as attacking inside to attempt at drawing fouls. The Wolverines must also shadow him in the low post at a consistent rate, not so much challenging Withey, but grabbing his attention to widen the lane for potential assists underneath.
The more Michigan can control its possessions and keep Withey and Co. moving, the quicker it can wear Kansas down. Competing inside won't win the Wolverines this game, but nonstop action from those off the ball force Withey to acknowledge everything around the free-throw line and baseline.
Match Kansas at the Line
Michigan ran away from VCU because it knocked down 90.9 percent of its attempted free throws.
Kansas is quite reliable at the line as well, averaging 81.2 percent over the past three games.
The Jayhawks also average six more attempts from the line than Michigan. Facing a team that is offensively oriented and will connect from anywhere on the floor, it's imperative that the Wolverines take advantage of every shot from the line.
Another challenge is not fouling. Kansas has seven players who average 13-plus minutes and six of them shoot more than 70 percent at the foul line. The Wolverines have seven players who average 11 or more minutes, but only three of them shoot more than 70 percent from the line.
When the chance for some free points are presented, Michigan must knock 'em down.
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