Illinois Preview

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

Tonight, for the second time in 10 days, Michigan will take on Illinois in Big Ten basketball action. The game is a 8:30 PM Eastern  tonight in Urbana-Champaign, and can be seen live on Big Ten Network.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Illinois: National Ranks
Category Michigan Illinois Advantage
Mich eFG% v. Illinois eFG% D 53 38 I
Mich eFG% D v. Illinois eFG% 98 35 I
Mich TO% v. Illinois Def TO% 3(!) 34 M
Mich Def TO% v. Illinois TO% 146 72 I
Mich OReb% v. Illinois DReb% 261 157 II
Mich DReb% v. Illinois OReb% 188 216 M
Mich FTR v. Illinois Opp FTR 289 23 III
Mich Opp FTR v. Illinois FTR 8 343 MMMM
Mich AdjO v. Illinois AdjD 21 16
Mich AdjD v. Illinois AdjO 131 33 I

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third. In free throw rate, Michigan has earned the as-yet-unprecedented 4th letter.

Illinois is a good basketball team. Of course, Michigan somehow managed to knock them off less than two weeks ago, so this game certainly isn’t unwinnable. Still, home court advantage is huge in the Big Ten, and from the looks of things, Michigan may have just gotten lucky in Crisler last time. The key when Illinois has the ball is limiting the number of god shots the Illini get. Michigan must keep the Illinois effective field goal percentage down if they want a chance to win. The Illini have a slight advantage in this area, but that includes ridiculous shooting nights by the likes of Savannah State and Indiana, where the shots weren’t really open, they just happened to fall. On the other end of the court, Michigan must get some good shots of their own. The offense works best when DeShawn Sims is able to shoot not only inside the lane, but also from midrange to open up the arc for the likes of Laval Lucas-Perry and Zack Novak. Manny Harris must continue trying to get to the line, and not get frustrated if he doesn’t get the calls early in the game. When that happened in the Wisconsin game, he unwisely kept trying what wasn’t working instead of dishing to more open teammates. Turnover margin should also play a role in this game. Michigan was forcing turnovers out of the 1-3-1 and man looks against the Hawkeyes, though I think the 1-3-1 is a better turnover-producing set. Of course, playing the 1-3-1 is heavily contingent on making shots (as pointed out after the Indiana game by commenter Mr. Ostrander), so again eFG% is important. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 70-61 Illinois win in a 60-possession game. He gives the Wolverines a 16% chance of winning the game.

Illinois is led by Trent Meachem, Demitri McCamey, Chester Frazier, and Mike Davis. Each of those four guys plays 70% or more of the team’s minutes, so getting them in foul trouble – which again leads me to believe Michigan should try to score in the lane in this game – would be helpful. Meachem is the team’s biggest three-point threat, while the 6-10 Davis is primarily an inside scorer. Newly-eligible (following his transfer from Kentucky) is Alex Legion, who has gotten plenty of playing time in Big Ten games. He also forced Zack Novak to get 6 stitches last time these teams squared off.

Call me crazy, but I think with Illinois’s size (3 players over 6-10, and another at 6-7), I think Jevohn Shepherd may get a bit of playing time in this game, if only for his athleticism on defense and to absorb a few fouls to keep DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson out of trouble. Michigan should also be able to get by on their quickness against a bigger Illinois team.

The Wolverines are the underdog yet again, and this game isn’t a must-win, but it certainly would be nice to get the first 2-game season sweep of the year.

Posted under Analysis, Basketball
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1 Comment so far

  1. MileHiMojo says...

    Yes, limiting the number of god shots is absolutely critical for UM to have a chance in this game, unless the Wolverines are prepared to make a deal with the devil.

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