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February 16, 2014
What to watch for: Michigan vs. Wisconsin
Michigan could take another step toward a Big Ten title with a win over Wisconsin Sunday afternoon. Here are the keys to the game:
1. Take Advantage Of The Chances
Both the Badgers and the Wolverines are playing some slow, deliberate basketball right now.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Badgers rank No. 322 nationally in possessions per game, averaging just 65.4 possessions every 40 minutes, and Michigan ranks No. 324 nationally, averaging 65.3 possessions per game.
For comparison's sake, Northwestern State is No. 1 nationally, averaging 80.6 possessions per game.
The Badgers have always played like this, bleeding the shot clock and playing good defense to shorten games. But this is a relatively new style for the Wolverines. When they travelled to Madison for the first game between these two teams, they were averaging 71.9 possessions per game.
With fewer possessions on the table, you have to make the ones you get count.
And Michigan is definitely doing that.
Even though they have had rough games in the last few weeks - at Indiana and at Iowa - the Wolverines rank fourth nationally in offensive efficiency (1.157).
The Badgers aren't too far behind, ranking 17th in offensive efficiency (1.121).
If Michigan plays its game and makes the shots it can make, it will be fine.
2. Make Your Shots
Really, the Wolverines have to hit their open shots.
The last time these two teams met, the Wolverines hit 60.7 percent of their field goals (17-of-28) and 80.0 percent of their three-point shots (4-of-5) in the first half.
Even with that kind of shooting, Michigan held just a five-point lead at the break.
For the game, Michigan shot 54.7 percent (29-of-53), including a 53.8-percent mark from three-point range (7-of-13) - and still won by just seven points.
With the pacing that Wisconsin is going to want to use, the Wolverines really cannot afford to have an off night from the field.
In the first game against the Badgers, both Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert had good shooting days.
Stauskas went 7-of-17 from the field, including a 3-of-9 mark from outside. LeVert finished the game 7-of-15 from the field and 3-of-3 from downtown.
Both of them will need to shoot well, once again.
Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country at limiting second chances for their opponents.
The Badgers rank 28th in the country in opponent offensive rebounds per game (7.8). In Madison this season, the Wolverines collected just three offensive rebounds.
Michigan is coming off its best rebounding performance of the season. In a 70-60 win at Ohio State, the Wolverines outrebounded the Buckeyes 39-27.
More impressively, they collected 14 offensive rebounds on 31 misses (45.2 percent).
The Wolverines rank No. 284 nationally in offensive rebounding, with an average of 7.8 per game.
If they can get a few more second chances than they did in the first game against Wisconsin, it would be a very good sign.