#12 Villanova Wildcats (4-0) vs. #19 Michigan Wolverines (4-0)
When: Tuesday, November 25, 2014, at 10 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Michigan’s Previous Season Record: 28-9, Lost to Kentucky in Elite Eight of NCAA Tournament
Key Players for Michigan: #21 Zak Irvin (6-6, 215) So., G/F; #10 Derrick Walton Jr. (6-0, 185) So., G; #23 Caris LeVert (6-7, 200) Jr., G
Scouting Report: Leading up to this season, the Michigan Wolverines had some big shoes to fill. With the losses of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, they needed other players to step up and carry the load. So far, they haven’t had any problems. Zak Irvin has bursted to the scene. After sitting in the backseat for most of last season, he has become one of the primary driving forces for this team’s success this year. Irvin went from averaging 6.7 points per game last season to 20.3 this year. He is a great player who can score from anywhere on the court. He has the ability to drive inside and finish, as well as knock down perimeter shots. His slightly unorthodox shot release has served him well thus far. In last night’s victory against Oregon, he was the high scorer with 19 points. Irvin is shooting 53.8% overall and 51.9% from beyond the arc. He is not to be taken lightly. Aside from Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr. and Chris LeVert are other formidable opponents in the starting rotation to look out for. Walton Jr. was in foul trouble for most of the Oregon game, so don’t let his six points and ineffectiveness deceive you. In the three games before that, he averaged close to 18 points a game. He’s a lot like his counter part, LeVert. He prefers to drive and play inside, but he can also take and make the three. Walton doesn’t take as many shots as Irvin or LeVert, but he can easily chip in points when needed to. The difference between him and LeVert is that he is a much more efficient shooter, boasting a 50% shooting percentage on the floor. However, LeVert seems to be the better athlete. While he may be more physically gifted, it hasn’t translated to his stats. He has only been shooting 38.8% on the floor, but is still averaging the second best scoring average with 16.3 points per game. When it comes to rebounding, he’s the best that the Wolverines have to offer. He may not get the shots to fall, but he can certainly crash the board and collect the loose ball. LeVert leads the team with 7.0 rebounds per game. In the Oregon game, he shot a meager 3-for-13 on the floor but still managed to finish with 18 points. The difference? He gets to the line as he slashes his way through opposing defenses. 11 of his 18 points came from the charity stripe. LeVert is well versed in making the free opportunities. If opposing defenses cover him well without sending him to the line, he becomes meaningless. In the game against Bucknell he was restricted to a 2-for-11 performance and six points. The Bison kept him away from the free throw line as he faded into the background. Freshmen Kameron Chatman and Mark Donnal have gotten their minutes with the starting lineup, but haven’t really made an impact on the game just yet. They’ll be looking to finally get it started against Villanova. Keep an eye out for Spike Albrecht. He’s a junior guard who has thrived on the bench since he first came to Ann Arbor. He plays the most minutes out of anyone on the bench and can provide a spark at anytime. Although somewhat undersized at 5’11”, 175, he plays fearlessly. When he gets hot, he can sink them from long range or by driving to the basket. Albrecht is a gritty player, the kind of guy that every team needs on their bench. While others rest, he forces teams to play defense at all times.
Outlook: Oregon had a chance to knock off the Wolverines last night but they didn’t capitalize on key opportunities. The Ducks had them beat on the boards, but couldn’t convert second chance opportunities when needed. Oregon wasn’t any bigger than Michigan, does that mean the Wolverines are going to have a hard time with the much bigger Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston? Possibly, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet. While Oregon did beat them, Michigan won the rebounding battle against the other three teams they’ve played thus far. Sure they were unable to win the boards last night, but they aren’t bad at it. It’s encouraging that Villanova is going into this game after beating VCU when it came to rebounding, but I wouldn’t expect Michigan to allow themselves to be slapped around again. They’re a good, experienced team, much like we are. The key on offense will definitely be to take it through Ochefu and Pinkston. I’d like to see Ochefu get more touches in this one. We have the size advantage inside so we might as well use it. From there, it can open up opportunities in the perimeter. Last night was the best second half that Villanova has played thus far, hopefully they can continue to play with such energy in this game. I’ll be honest, I’m more impressed by Irvin and Walton Jr. than LeVert. Irvin will be tough, so we’ll have to bring the defensive intensity up on him. Walton Jr. can sneakily have a good game. LeVert can drive all he wants but as long as we play solid defense and not foul, we will remove him from the game just like Oregon and Bucknell did.
Also, tip-off is scheduled at 10 p.m. (pretty late) but just be ready for some overlap in the Oregon/VCU game that pushes it back a few more minutes…