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One of the best players in the country so far this year has been Victor Oladipo. Not only because he has improved his play on the offensive end, but also because his defensive play has been fantastic. Now, with what is probably the biggest game of the college basketball season so far on Saturday night with Michigan and Indiana, Oladipo will play an important role. The big question is: who will Oladipo guard? Since Oladipo is a wing player, the basic assumption would be that he would guard one of Michigan's wing players like Hardaway or Stauskas. The problem with this strategy for Indiana is that neither of these are Michigan's best players [EDIT: Player]. Typically, a team tries to put their best defender on their opponent's best offensive player, which is obviously Trey Burke, but he plays the point and Oladipo does not. Will Indiana still put Oladipo on Burke? By going back and analyzing a few of Indiana's previous games, it becomes clear that odds are pretty good that Oladipo will be guarding Burke. During the game against Butler, Oladipo spent almost all of his time guarding the point and there's no doubt that they don't have a point guard even close to Burke's level. Along with this, Michigan's team success is largely dependent on Burke's ability to move the ball and create offensively. Michigan has done well in some games when Burke doesn't put up insane stats, but it typically requires at least one player to have a good game.
Just take a look at Michigan's early season matchup with Kansas State. Burke didn't have a bad night by anyone's standards (10 pts, 4 asts), but it was well below his average (17.9 pts, 7.1 asts). From a pure production perspective, this was actually a worse night for Burke than the game against Ohio State, which most consider his worst game of the season. Of course, there is more to a game than what appears on the stats sheet, but take a look at what Burke's teammates did in both games. In the Kansas State game, two players outside of Burke (Hardaway & Stauskas) had at least ten points. In the game against Ohio State, only one player outside of Burke had at least ten points (Hardaway). And to illustrate this point even further, look at what each of these two players did in the games. In the Kansas State game, Hardaway scored 23 points and went 10-15, but against Ohio State, he scored 12 points and went 5-15. Stauskas scored 10 points against Kansas State, but didn't score a single point against the Buckeyes. Ohio State is probably a better defensive team than Kansas State, but both play some solid defense and focused on stopping Burke.
These are important findings because they illustrate what can happen when Burke has an off night. If Indiana puts Oladipo on Burke (seems pretty plausible considering how they used him against teams like Butler) it's pretty likely that Burke's production will drop. Burke is having an incredible season, but it's a pretty established fact that better defenders typically reduce any player's production. It's just how the game works. If there is a dropoff in Burke's production, it would increase the pressure on players surrounding Burke like Hardaway and Stauskas. The good news for them is that if Oladipo is used to guard Burke, they are going to get a lot more space to operate. Yogi Ferrell would likely guard Hardaway and Jordan Hulls would likely be put on Stauskas. Ferrell is a very good freshmen, but he's still a freshmen. He can get caught off guard at times and defending one of the best players in the conference in Hardaway is no easy task. Along with this, Hulls has never been known as a good defender, which gives Stauskas has the potential to have a big night.
The pressure will likely be on Hardaway and Stauskas to be effective on the offensive end, but there will also be some pressure to guard Oladipo on the defensive end. Oladipo is certainly a better defensive than offensive player, but he has improved his game significantly. He has developed a solid jump shot, is good in transition, and can drive the basket. The obvious choice to guard Oladipo will be Hardaway. He has a similar body to Oladipo and is definitely Michigan's best defender on the wing. Michigan's defense will probably be centered around slowing down Cody Zeller, but Hardaway is going to have to play a lot of man defense on Oladipo and keep up in transition. Hardaway has been improving as a defender this season, but it will certainly be a challenge. If Michigan can slow down the Hoosiers in transition, this might be a matchup where Michigan can do pretty well, especially if Hardaway can keep him out of the lane, which he has done pretty well so far this year. Oladipo doesn't take a lot of 3 pt attempts, so this is the key part of his game to stop. One thing worth mentioning is that a lot of wing players have been able to get space on Stauskas in the lane. If he gets shuffled into guarding Oladipo, it could be bad news for Michigan. Michigan will undoubtedly be burned by Oladipo on several possessions throughout the game. He's just too good not to get at least something, but it will be interesting to see how he is used on the defensive end and to see whether Hardaway can hold his ground on defense.
Todays the big day. Will Michigan seize control of the Big Ten with a big road win in Bloomington?
This post was edited by Thomas Beindit 14 months ago
Basketball Analyst For BTPowerhouse & Wolverine 247 - Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tbeindit
Nice read, but in the first paragraph you say that THJ isn't one of Michigan's best players and then in then in the 3rd you say he is one of the best in the conference. Just an observation.
Interesting. It's pretty simple to me. If Oladipo guards Burke, then Trey needs to accept the challenge and make Indiana pay for putting Oladipo on him. Burke has the ability to beat anyone in the country guarding him. If Oladipo guards him and Trey plays well this could really backfire on Indiana because of the mismatch it could cause for Timmy or Stauskas.
If Burke is guarded by Oladipo wouldn't that mean Yogi Ferrell is on Timmy? That's a matchup we could abuse pretty easily.
To start the game yeah. I assume when Sheehee is in the game he would guard Timmy.
How tall are Hulls and Ferrell? Seems like THJ and Stauskus would abuse them inside.
Timmy and Stauskas should both have like 5+ inches on Hulls and Ferrell. THJ should be able to abuse Ferrell inside but i would expect Stauskas to more shoot over Hulls than take him inside. Nik won't have to worry too much about Hulls blocking his shot.
Thanks and I appreciate you pointing that out to me. It was supposed to be "player" not "players", meaning that THJ isn't the best player on Michigan's team.
I am concerned about Oladipo matching up against Burke. I believe Ferrel matched up against Burke benefits the offense more than Ferrel vs. THJ. Burke is what makes the offense go. We have seen him try to do too much and stall the offense when matched up against a good, physical defender (Craft). If the offense is out of sync, it is likely the THJ won't be able to utilize the likely matchup problems that Ferrel guarding him would bring.
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