INDIANAPOLIS — There’s no shortage of frontcourt talent in the Big Ten. When sophomore center Hunter Dickinson tries to name them all, he keeps “forgetting somebody good.” There are too many to count.
For Michigan, its journey outside of the Big Ten will not provide a reprieve from talented big men; instead, it will face a new challenge. In waiting is Colorado State forward David Roddy, the Mountain West Player of the Year.
Roddy stands at 6-foot-6 and averages nearly 20 points per game and seven rebounds in a league that has produced four NCAA Tournament teams — not an ordinary mid-major conference by any stretch. He is, as Michigan coach Juwan Howard put it, “the head of the snake” of the Rams’ high-powered offense.
“He’s definitely not a bad player, for sure,” Dickinson said. “Somebody that we kind of compared him to was a Ron Harper type guy who was a little bit undersized but is girthy and can somehow move his body the way he does.”
“Very competitive young man plays with a lot of energy and effort … He’s not undersized because of the toughness, because of the way he’s able to get downhill and finish over length.”
The Rutgers forward Harper averaged nearly 20 points per game across two contests against the Wolverines, showing they have ample room for improvement when guarding a player in that archetype.
Comparisons only go so far, though. Roddy isn’t just Harper, he’s a complex threat the likes of which Michigan hasn’t quite seen yet this season. When looking at Roddy’s scouting report, the thing that immediately jumps out is just how efficient he is. He’s shooting 57% from the floor and a staggering 45% from deep on 99 attempts — a number that would be the best on the Wolverines’ roster.
Roddy can post up, he can pick and pop, he can finish inside; you name it, he can probably do it.
The question then becomes: How can you contain it?
Direct counters are hard, Michigan could double the post as it did to Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell in the second matchup between the teams. The strategy worked fairly well in the win, holding Liddell to 16 points on 40% shooting. Doing something like that runs the risk of giving up open 3-pointers to the Rams, though, and that’s something they do quite well.
The problems could be amplified even more if Colorado State decides to play Roddy at the ‘5.’ In that matchup, Dickinson could become a defensive liability having to defend a court full of smaller, perimeter threats.
When it comes to a guy like Roddy and the Rams’ offense as a whole, there is no right answer as to how to slow them down. In the Wolverines’ case, considering that they are not a great defensive team, the best defense will likely be one that slows Roddy down just enough to complement their own efficient offense.
Dickinson, naturally, didn’t go into specifics of the defensive gameplan when discussing Roddy and the particular threat he brings. But it was still obvious that he knows that Michigan has its work cut out for itself if it wants to win on Thursday.
“He’s definitely a guy we’re game-planning for,” Dickinson said. “Somebody that we’re definitely gonna have to stop if we want to win the game.”