B1G Tournament Preview: #8 Michigan vs. #9 Northwestern

The eighth seeded Wolverines (20-11, 10-8 Big Ten) take on the ninth seeded Wildcats (20-11, 8-10 Big Ten) this Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network at noon EST. Michigan has lost four out of its last five games to Ohio State, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Iowa, failing to add quality wins to their resume. Michigan will be fighting for its NCAA Tournament life in the Big Ten Tournament. Most bracketologists have them slotted to be one of the “first four out;” therefore, the wolverines will need about two or more wins in the tournament to make NCAA noise. This scenario does not favor the ice-cold Michigan Basketball squad, and the Wolverines will most likely earn a NIT bid.

Northwestern Player to Watch:

The Wildcats’ 7-0, 270 pound Center Alex Olah will cause all kinds of hell for Michigan down low. The big man averages 11 points and 5 rebounds per game, but the last time these two teams squared off, Olah dominated the interior scoring 19 points in 30 minutes on the court. Notably, Olah took an overwhelming six three point shots in that matchup, expect those shots to be traded for post looks against U-M’s stingy defense.

Michigan Player to Watch:

Junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. stepped up against Iowa in a game where no Wolverine could find offensive rhythm. The 6-0 ball handler posted 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. He scored 16 points against the Wildcats in their first meeting this season, and will be a huge component in the wolverines offense if he is hitting shots and attacking the basket. Walton Jr. leads the Big Ten in rebounds per game (5.7) among point guards.

Breakdown:

At this point, Michigan knows that they need a win against Northwestern, and a win against top seeded Indiana if they want a shot at a Tournament berth. The Wolverines have had multiple chances to punch their ticket over the past couple games, and have failed to do so. Their keys to success Thursday:

-Although it is late in the season and there has been a clear fatigue among the starters, keeping them on the court for as long as possible will be necessary to keep momentum rolling.

– Try to contain Alex Olah and make him work for every point and rebound. Prevent entry passes into the post, and force him to move out of the paint to take deeper jump shots.