A big game and an even bigger opponent will be waiting for the Michigan men”s basketball team tonight at 7 p.m. in Minneapolis.
Minnesota”s top five scorers are each at least 6-foot-7, and that size advantage could shed a bright light on some of Michigan”s shortcomings this season.
The Wolverines (2-0 Big Ten, 6-5 overall) have beaten just two teams on the boards this season, and those teams (Oakland and IUPU-Fort Wayne) have seen just two complete years of Division I competition combined.
Michigan is currently last in the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 32.8 boards per game.
“We just weren”t doing a good job of boxing out. They were getting three and four shots at it. It”s really frustrating,” senior center Chris Young said. “It”s as simple as putting a body on people and getting the ball.”
The Wolverines have been especially weak on the defensive glass, and Minnesota senior Dusty Rychart is among the nation”s best rebounders, posting more than three offensive boards per game.
In Saturday”s 79-75 win over Purdue, the Wolverines lost the battle on their own glass 18-17.
Minnesota (1-1, 8-5) uses plenty of zone defense, allowing its talented 6-foot-10 freshman, Rick Rickert (11.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 blocks), to patrol the lane.
If Michigan wants to start the Big Ten season 2-0 on the road for the first time since 1992-1993, it will need to avoid foul trouble on its thin front line and continue its strong outside shooting.
During the Wolverines” first two conference wins, just one player picked up more than two fouls the team totaled just 20 in both games.
“Don”t jinx us,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said after the Purdue win. “We are making it a point of emphasis in our practices. That is going to be a key for us throughout this whole year.”
After the academic suspension of 7-foot-2 center Josh Moore, Young is the only Wolverine over 6-foot-7 that has seen significant playing time this season.
But regardless of the opponent, Michigan must shoot well to survive.
The Wolverines have shot 52.8 percent from the field in their victories and just 39.7 percent in their losses.
Michigan”s Dommanic Ingerson could spread out Minnesota”s zone. Despite the freshman”s propensity for extra-long “Dom Bombs,” he still sits in second place in the conference with a 3-point percentage of 55.8.
But the rims in the Big Ten have not been kind to visitors. This season, the conference is 69-12 with the home-court advantage.
This past Saturday, all five home teams were victorious and all three of the Big Ten”s ranked teams fell victim to the “road curse.”
“Road games expose weaknesses,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “It”s easier to stay together and fight adversity with 15,000 people behind you.”
Fortunately for its fans, Michigan will enter the hostile territory of Williams Arena with its highest confidence level of the season.
“I”d like to think and hope that we have some momentum,” Amaker said. “We”re hoping that more than momentum, we can sustain some confidence.”
No Moore school?: Rumors continue to swirl about the possibility of Moore transferring to another school.
The last time Moore spoke with Amaker, he was leaning toward staying at Michigan. Moore has not registered or attended any classes this semester.
“Josh has some things that he has to do, in terms of meetings with some deans and administrators,” Amaker explained.