Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Previewing: Pittsburgh

Tonight marks the first "legitimate" game of Michigan's 2012-2013 season.  Can the Wolverines back up their #4 ranking?  Nobody will have a true answer until later tonight when Michigan begins play in New York for the Preseason NIT, but there are a few interesting things worth watching when Michigan tips off against Pittsburgh in a few hours.  The Panthers are not ranked, but they seem poised for a good season, a NCAA Tournament berth, and maybe even a tourney run.

There's one player that Michigan fans should be focused on for tonight; Steven Adams.  Adams is a 7'0" center from New Zealand and is projected to be not only one of the best players in the NCAA, but also is currently slated as one of the top prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft.  Of course, height and draft prospects don't guarantee a player will be great, especially in his first big game as a true freshman, but I think it's safe to assume that he will be the biggest threat to Michigan.

Michigan will have a significant advantage in the backcourt with Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, and GR3, but if the Wolverines are to win, they are going to have to play well up front and particularly down low.  Right now, Michigan has 2 starter quality big men (Jordan Morgan & Jon Horford) and a few legitimate backups (Mitch McGary, Blake McLimans & Max Bielfeldt).  Odds are that Morgan and Horford will get the vast majority of playing time, but I do think that McGary will get his fair share.  

If Michigan's big men can play decently against Adams tonight, the prospects for this season could be huge.  Everyone knows Michigan has one of the best backcourts in the entire country, but the question marks have always revolved around the team's big men.  This year things were supposed to change up front (I believe they will be drastically improved) and this is the team's first chance to display those improvements.  This will be the most important matchup for tonight.

Now, Pitt obviously has some other players on their team outside Adams.  Right now, Pitt is getting a lot of production out of a few other players including Tray Woodall and J.J. Moore.  Woodall is the team's senior point guard and is really what will get the offense going.  One thing to note is that Woodall is a great shooter and Burke is going to have to be on his game defensively to slow him down.  Moore is one of the team's talented forwards that can rack up the points in a hurry.  He already had a 20 pt game just about a week ago.  GR3 will have his hands full guarding Moore tonight.

Overall, I think Michigan's talent and depth are just going to be too much for Pitt.  Yes, they have the pieces here and there, but they still lack the raw talent, experience, and depth of Michigan.  I expect them to have a slight advantage upfront, but Adams is only averaging 21 minutes per game, which means his overall production is going to be limited.  They also have a talented point guard, but he's going to be facing a preseason All-American in Burke.  I have a feeling Pitt will keep it close, but once Adams hits the bench, they just won't have enough to hang with Michigan.

Prediction: Michigan 75-65

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