When these teams met at the beginning of December Michigan survived a big scare escaping a Northwestern come back by pulling out the two-point win. Since then, Michigan is off to their best start in school history (16-0) and Northwestern is putting together a nice season (10-6) although they have struggled in Big Ten play.
Here is the preview and prediction for Michigan Basketball vs. Northwestern…
What: Michigan Wolverines (2) vs. Northwestern Wildcats
When: Sunday, January 13, 7:30 PM
Where: Crisler Center, University of Michigan
Keys to victory for Michigan: Michigan has been playing excellent basketball as of late which is why they are deservedly ranked the No. 2 team in the nation. They need to keep their foot on the gas however if they are going to stay on top of the Big Ten with Michigan State and Maryland right on their heels. One slip up could cost the Wolverines a Big Ten title.
When Michigan played at Northwestern earlier in the year, they controlled most of the game and were up most of the way but never capitalized and put the Wildcats away. Northwestern actually took a three-point lead with about five minutes left giving Michigan quite the scare. Michigan will need to build a lead just like last time as long as they are able to close out the Wildcats and run away with it in the second half.
In order to do that, the Wolverines will need to shut down Vic Law and Dererk Pardon. These are Northwestern’s best players and they scored over half the Wildcats points in the first matchup. Michigan cannot allow Vic Law to make four threes again and Jon Teske must do a better job of making things difficult for Pardon who only missed one shot in the first meeting.
Offensively, Ignas Brazdeikis carried the load for Michigan in the last meeting scoring 23 points. Brazdeikis can expect some help this time around as the rest of the Michigan lineup has been shooting the ball extremely well. In the first matchup, Isaiah Livers didn’t score at all which is quite surprising considering how well he has been playing of late.
If Michigan can throw a more balanced offensive attack against Northwestern they should have no problem winning at home against an opponent that they have already beaten once.
Keys to victory for Northwestern: Northwestern did everything they needed to do last game in order to pull off the upset yet they ended up falling short. They stuck with Michigan all game and never let Michigan expand their lead which gave them a really good shot to win at the end of the game. Ultimately, they need to play the same way, and then some and they may have another shot at taking out the number one team in the Big Ten.
For starters, Vic Law has to be excellent. I fully expect Michigan to game plan hard against him and he must be ready to shoulder the load as he has all season. As Michigan will put a lot of their focus on him, he must be ready to find the open shooter and share the ball. He is averaging under three assists on the year but giving an extra pass may be what they need in order to score against the stifling Michigan defense.
Dererk Pardon must also play like he is capable of for the Wildcats to have a chance. He should attack Jon Teske early and often and should use his big frame to control the paint as best he can. Michigan had trouble containing him in their last meeting and Northwestern will need his best effort to steal a game on the road.
Defensively, Northwestern did a great job against the Michigan offense in the first meeting, especially in the second half. Michigan’s offense has improved significantly since then as Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers are really starting to find their groove. I expect this game to be higher scoring then the first meeting which is why Northwestern’s effort on the defensive end is imperative if they want to pull off the upset.
If Vic Law and Dererk Pardon are able to pour in the points and Northwestern’s defense steps up in big ways, we might have another nail biter in this Big Ten matchup.
Prediction: I expect Northwestern to keep this game close through much of the first half and into the second just like last time. They have been a tough team all season and they will certainly be looking to avenge their loss from earlier in the year.
Although they will keep things close, Michigan has vastly improved from where they were a month ago and I expect them to extend their lead late in the second half, leaving with a drama free victory. Livers and Poole will each score in double figures and the Wolverines will not let Pardon or Law score over 20 points.
Final Score: Michigan 73 – Northwestern 64