Ask any fan of college basketball what to expect from a Tom Izzo team, and the first thing you'll hear is along the lines of "an almost fanatical devotion to rebounding". Rarely has that been better illustrated than Sunday's game.
Michigan posted a respectable eFG% and won the turnover battle decisively. Free throws made up some of the gap, but the key was clearly the battle on the glass. The numbers are incredible: 12 of 25 possible offensive rebounds, 28 of 31 (!) defensive rebounds. Draymond Green, as you might have heard, had a big influence on this: he had 16 rebounds total (the same number as Michigan's entire team), 14 on defense. His knee didn't appear to be bothering him at all in his 38 minutes, and Michigan had absolutely no answer on the glass. (Just how ridiculous was his rebounding? He got to nearly half - 47.5% - of available defensive rebounds while on the floor. I don't think that's a record, but it's got to be up there.)
On the season, MSU now ranks 14th in offensive rebounding at 39.6%, 13th in defensive rebounding at 73.6%. That's just shy of the 2009 team's finishing ranks of 6th and 11th.
The other key to this game: defending Trey Burke and keeping him from getting drives which would either lead to a lay-up or a kick out to an open shooter. While there were a few easy lay-ups, for the vast majority of the game Michigan had to resort to bombing away with long, contested jumpers. Combine that with allowing no second chances and getting back nearly half of your own misses, and only an astronomical disadvantage in turnovers could have derailed the game.
Game flow chart:
MSU jumped out in front early and never really looked back; the last time Michigan was closer than 8 points was at 15-9. While the game never got completely put away until a late run to get to our biggest lead of the game (57-40), it was never really in serious doubt either.
With eight games left, the schedule breaks out into three groups:
- The bottom-feeders: Visits from Penn State and Nebraska. Either of these games being competitive with five minutes left would worry me more than any of our losses to date.
- The must-get road games: Minnesota and Purdue are no pushovers, and at home they'll certainly be motivated for a potentially bid-clinching upset, but if this team wants to hang a regular-season banner, these are games that we really need. You can usually afford a couple of road losses to mid-level teams, but we've already got those. Assuming we take care of business here:
- The deciding games: Home games against Wisconsin and OSU, road trips to Indiana and OSU. Get through these four at 3-1 and there's a good chance of at least a share of the Big Ten title. Drop two, and chances are slim at best (especially if it's a sweep by OSU). Ken Pomeroy has us underdogs in three of these (all but home against Wisconsin), but Indiana on the road and OSU at home are nearly toss-ups.
Next up: Penn State, Wednesday night, 6:30 PM.