Starting a few weeks ago, Michigan will have played five of its last six games on the road. Not only is this hard enough, but many of those teams have been quality opponents. Facing teams like Arkansas and Purdue would be tough for most, but they are even harder opponents on the road. Along with this, the Wolverines had to play Michigan State in East Lansing and Ohio State in Columbus. Both of those teams are undefeated at home this year.
Considering the scheduling, if Michigan comes out with a win against Nebraska, it will have gone 3-3 in its toughest stretch of the season. Not exactly what everyone wanted, especially since two of the games were against rivals, but not something that should "bum" anybody out. Along with this, Michigan finally won a true road game and will still be in the Big Ten race.
So, let's compare these two teams:
Since Nebraska is 11-11 and one of the bottom teams in the Big Ten, it is not surprising that Michigan has significant advantages in most statistical categories.
- Averages 67.0 ppg
- 45.8% Field Goal Percentage
- 8.1 3-PT Shots Made Per Game
- 34.5% 3-PT Percentage
- 13.3 Assists Per Game
- 31.7 Rebounds Per Game
- Averages 62.2 ppg
- 42.9% Field Goal Percentage
- Make 6.3 3-PT shots per game
- 32.6% 3-PT Percentage
- 12.4 Assists Per Game
- 31.5 Rebounds Per Game
So what do all these stats mean? Statistically, Michigan is better in virtually every area of the court. However, one key area to notice is the difference in 3-PT shooting. Nebraska is known to be pretty good at shooting from outside the arc, but Michigan is superior. If Michigan wants to maintain their advantage over the Cornhuskers, they will need to beat them outside the arc. Watch for outside defense to be key to whoever wins this game.
Both teams are pretty solid on this side of the court, but once again the Wolverines have a pretty significant advantage over the Cornhuskers.
- Allow 61.0 ppg
- 42.5% Field Goal Percentage Allowed
- 6.1 3-PT Shots Allowed Per Game
- 35.1% 3-PT Percentage Allowed
- 11.4 Assists Allowed Per Game
- 31.3 Rebounds Allowed Per Game
- Allow 64.4 ppg
- 43.5% Field Goal Percentage Allowed
- 6.3 3-PT Shots Allowed Per Game
- 33.9% 3-PT Percentage Allowed
- 11.0 Assists Allowed Per Game
- 31.5 Rebounds Allowed Per Game
The stats clearly show that Michigan's defense has been better this year, but there are some key differences. Michigan has actually played better interior defense than Nebraska, which may be surprising, while Nebraska has played better on the outside. Now, the quality of competition is highly debatable considering that Michigan went to Maui while Nebraska did nothing.
Michigan still has the advantage, but I think Nebraska's defense is going to play quite well in this game. They've played well against some of the other 3-PT shooting teams in the Big Ten and I expect them to continue to do that on the defensive end. Just because I believe that 3-PT shooting is going to be a major issue in this game I'm going to say it's closer, but Michigan still gets the edge.
Neither team is coming in remarkably hot (a combined 3 straight losses) and there really aren't a lot of stakes on this game. However, I assume Nebraska fans will show up to see Michigan for the first time in Big Ten play. Anticipating this and its impact on the Cornhuskers is the main reason I am giving them the edge in this category. Michigan has responded quick well to losses (haven't lost two in a row all season), but playing on the road has not been their strong suit either. Understanding this, Nebraska gets the edge here.
Frankly, I've given Nebraska a lot of credit in this preview, but if the Wolverines lose I will be very disappointed and concerned. If there is a must-win road game on the schedule, it is this game. Nebraska and Penn State are dominating the bottom-tier of the Big Ten and Michigan is trying to prove they belong among the top-tier. However, this game will not be that simple.
As usual, Michigan will have to win this in a hostile environment. They have been pretty underwhelming on the road this season and against weaker teams. Now, the reasons for that can be debated, but this just doesn't seem to be a team that will "destroy" an opponent. Most of the games, especially in Big Ten play, have been highly competitive, at least for segments. I'm expecting Michigan to get ahead early by a decent margin, but to give up a good hunk of that lead and make it close
My Magic Pick Is...
Photo Credit: The Sports Bank