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January 2, 2014
What To Watch For: U-M at Minnesota
These are the keys to Michigan's Big Ten opener, a road game at Minnesota Thursday night:
1. The Hollins One-Two Punch
They share a last name - but no relation - and a backcourt: senior guard Austin Hollins and junior guard Andre Hollins are tearing it up once again for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Gophers are transitioning to a new coaching staff, having replaced Tubby Smith with Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who bested Michigan in the 2013 National Championship Game. But the Hollinses have picked up right where they left off.
They duo has improved steadily over the last three years.
In 2011-12, Austin, then a sophomore, averaged 9.2 points per game, and Andre, then a freshman, chipped in 8.7 points per game.
Last season, the two were Minnesota's No. 1 and No. 2 scorers, with Andre scoring 14.6 points per game and Austin adding 10.7 points per game.
Through 12 games this season, both have increased they scoring even more and are still the Gophers' top two scoring options. Andre is averaging 16.0 points per game, with Austin adding 13.5.
But they do certainly do more than just score. Austin is averaging 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game to round out a very nice average box score stat line.
Andre is averaging 4.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game, too.
That is impressive.
Both are very high-volume shooters. Andre has already taken 139 shots this season, with 56 makes (40.3 percent). Austin has taken 131 shots, with 55 makes (42.0 percent).
For comparison's sake, sophomore guard Caris LeVert leads the Wolverines in shots taken this year with 120 (in the same number of games that Minnesota has played).
So, considering their season averages, the Hollinses may take as many as 25 combined shots Thursday night against the Wolverines.
And about half of their field goal attempts this season have been from outside. Andre is 23-of-70 (32.9 percent) from three-point range; Austin is 23-of-66 (34.8 percent).
Austin and Andre are going to get their shots, but they Wolverines can make life difficult on them with stiff perimeter defense and disciplined play.
On the season, the Wolverines are allowing opponents to hit 34.3 percent of their outside shots.
2. Hitting The Road
It's tough to win on the road. But if the Wolverines want to make a push for the Big Ten Championship, they're going to have to pull out some tough ones on the road.
Michigan has played two true road games this year, dropping both: 77-70 at Iowa State and 79-69 at Duke.
And the Wolverines will have no favors on the road in the Big Ten this year: at Minnesota Jan. 2, at Nebraska Jan. 9, at Wisconsin Jan. 18, at Michigan State Jan. 25, at Indiana Feb. 2, at Iowa Feb. 8, at Ohio State Feb. 11, at Purdue Feb. 26, at Illinois March 4.
Under Michigan coach John Beilein, the team has never finished a season with a record above .500 in true road games.
That's a seven-year combined record of 23-42. The last time Michigan had a record above .500 in true road games was 1997-98, when they went 6-5.
A win in Minneapolis Thursday night would be huge, especially considering the road games the team must go on at the end of January and the first few weeks of February.
3. Point Guard Play
Will it be freshman Derrick Walton, Jr. or sophomore Spike Albrecht who gets the majority of the minutes against the Gophers?
Walton has had flashes of promise in the first 12 games of the season, but Albrecht has been the more consistent of the two players.
Right now, Walton is averaging 24.8 minutes, 7.7 points, 2.8 assists and 2.1 turnovers per game. Albrecht is averaging 16.3 minutes, 4.2 points, 2.7 assists and 0.7 turnovers per game.
On the flip side, Minnesota has been getting surprising play from point guard DeAndre Mathieu, a transfer from Morehead State. He is averaging 11.3 points, 4.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 turnovers per game.