The Michigan Wolverines will take on the Syracuse Orange tonight in Ann Arbor at 7:30 p.m. ET as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
At a glance…
|PPG||Zak Irvin 17.7||Rakeem Christmas 17.5|
|REBOUNDS||Caris LeVert 6.2||Rakeem Christmas 9.0|
|ASSISTS||Caris LeVert 4.7||Kaleb Joseph 5.8|
It is still unknown if Derrick Walton Jr. will be available for the Wolverines. Listed as day-to-day, he’s questionable for tonight’s game against a team that will require Michigan to convert from three. Without Walton, Syracuse will be able to key in on Michigan’s three other threats from deep. Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht are all shooting above 40 percent from three-point land this season, but the Orange’s perimeter defense has been stellar so far, for the most part.
Syracuse’s defense is an all-around solid unit, only allowing 51.7 PPG and holding opponents to 34.1 percent shooting. It gets especially ugly from behind the arc, where opponents are only knocking down 26.8 percent of their shots. Unfortunately for the Orange, though, they don’t fare much better from deep. Their three-point shooting measures up to be on the worst in Division-I at only 20.2 percent.
Michigan has gotten used to competing against teams that want to get out and run, and though Syracuse isn’t necessarily the biggest threat in transition, the Orange will still like to keep things moving more quickly than the Wolverines.
As is usually the case for Michigan, size could become an issue in this one. Syracuse will start two players (Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough) who measure 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10, respectively. Michigan’s Ricky Doyle is going to have his hands full for this one. Look for Max Biefeldt and Mark Donnal to also see some significant action tonight. It’s still too early in the season for John Beilein to explicitly commit to Doyle as his big man.
A huge key for tonight’s game is going to be at the free throw line. Michigan doesn’t get there often, and opponents don’t get there very often either. Syracuse is on a very similar track. It will be interesting to see if either team tries to force the issue and get to the line.
Michigan is coming off an easy win Saturday against Nicholls State. With this one at home, I like the Wolverines to find momentum and ride it. Syracuse’s perimeter defense is going to be tough to break, but it isn’t as if the Wolverines are dry on options when it comes to shooters, even if Walton can’t contribute. I’ll take Michigan, 72-62.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.