TOC, I really need something to take my mind off of last night’s NFC Championship Game. My MSU fandom is only matched by my Lions fandom, and I am absolutely gutted today. I am hoping that a rivalry game for the Spartans can help cure me of some of my sorrows. And it does seem like we are catching the team from Ann Arbor at a time where things are not going smoothly. I sat down with Kellen Voss from Maize N Brew to discuss Tuesday’s matchup. Let’s see what he has to say.
TOC: As much as possible, I like to start with a question about the program or the coach. How hot is Juwan Howard’s seat right now?
KV: The vibes around the Michigan men’s basketball program are horrendous right now, and unfortunately Howard is a big part of that. There have been off-court distractions with the incident with head strength & conditioning coach Jon Sanderson and Dug McDaniel not being available for road games at the moment. On the court, the Wolverines can’t defend anyone, and while they have talent and can knock down threes, their offense is inconsistent, they have way too many scoreless droughts, and their late-game offense is broken. AD Warde Manuel was supportive of him at Sherrone Moore’s introductory presser, and basically said he hasn’t given much thought to Juwan’s status and the program right now. I know the fanbase is completely fed up with him. I’d say to answer your question, the seat is definitely warm after how the last few seasons have gone, but it also wouldn’t shock me if he was Michigan’s head coach again next season.
TOC: What has been the biggest factor behind your current record? Is there any chance for the Wolverines turning this around at all?
KV: Like I mentioned in the previous answer, they can not defend anyone. Their on-ball rotations are terrible, they are always late on rotations, and it feels like there’s an open three-point shooter or two on every possession. They’ve given up more points than any other team in the Big Ten, and when you combine that with an inconsistent offense that seems to get worse as the game goes along, it’s a recipe for disaster.
TOC: What has been the biggest surprise about this team this year, either in a positive or negative way?
KV: I think the biggest surprise is simply how bad they are. They were picked to finish 11th in the preseason media poll by The Athletic and The Columbus Dispatch, but I was expecting them to be a little better than that, with the talent they got in the transfer portal and the development of McDaniel and Tarris Reed Jr. They are just in a complete funk right now; you can see it in their body language. Expectations weren’t high for this team, but I was never expecting them to be the worst team in the conference.
TOC: MSU fans are kind of used to seeing an opposing player come out of nowhere and have a big game against us. Who on your roster do you feel could be due for a breakout game as a sign of good things to come?
KV: I’ll give two answers here. He wouldn’t come out of nowhere because he’s been Michigan’s second leading scorer, but I’m expecting a big game from Olivier Nkamhoua. The Tennessee transfer is one of the only players on Michigan’s roster who can consistently get a bucket, as he’s excellent in the post and from mid-range. He also thrives when the Wolverines play at a quick pace and will definitely be on the receiving end for a few alley-oops if the Wolverines can get out in transition. In terms of a surprise player, I’ll go with Will Tschetter. He’s been super efficient in short spurts for the Wolverines, as he’s shooting 59.4 percent from three on 1.6 attempts per game. Not a huge sample size, but he’s been a key bench player for the Wolverines. He got a little bullied inside the last time these teams played, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he has 10-12 points off the bench to help swing this game.
5. What is the most important thing the Wolverines need to do well on Tuesday in order to defeat the Spartans?
KV: They have to make their threes. The one thing the Wolverines are good at is making threes, as their team three-point percentage was in the top 25 in the country earlier this season and is now hovering just above 40th in the country after making 37.21 percent of their threes on the season. I’d argue this is the only skill that Michigan is above-average at; they truly live and die by the three. With McDaniel out, the Wolverines are going to need Terrance Williams II, who has bounced back and has had a solid senior season, Nimari Burnett, Tschetter, Jaelin Llewellyn and Tray Jackson to make their shots from beyond the arc to have a chance in this game.
TOC: Bonus Question: Predict the final score.
KV: MSU 69, U-M 59 as Tom Izzo wins his 700th game.
TOC wishes to thank Kellen for his help with this piece. We hope he is right and we get to see Tom Izzo win #700 tomorrow.
Also, TOC, I just want you to know that I had taken your prior complaints to heart about using my friend over at MGoBlog for these pieces. Hopefully this one will be more in your favor.