Northwestern takes on the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines. Seaworld has provided those in the front rows with ponchos, because of the likelihood Shamu splashes large amounts of blood onto them.
The way I see it, Northwestern has no gosh-darned chance of winning this game. I'm not saying that because NU just lost to Nebraska - I'm saying that because of who Michigan is.
I typically say that hey, this is basketball. Shots could go in! I thought NU had a decent chance of beating then-No. 2 Indiana at home, and wasn't completely hopeless the last times NU hosted No. 1 Ohio State at home - in fact, I was damn pumped about the upset opportunity, and was feeling it when NU just barely lost on the strength of one Jared Sullinger free throw. (A Jared friggin Sullinger free throw.) And NU went to overtime with Michigan - twice! - last year.
Look, Northwestern doesn't want it with Michigan this year. Let's take a peek:
Northwestern struggles with defending opposing point guards, and struggles against the pick and roll: Trey Burke is the best point guard in the country.
Northwestern struggles defending the pick and roll: Michigan loves that nonsense! I think Northwestern's best hope is to pull Alex Olah - who I feel has had a strong year - and put Jared Swopshire at the five in hopes of sticking with Michigan's center rolling - but this could backfire if they try posting their centers. Never mind that Jordan Morgan's out. Mitch McGary has been better, per possession, Jon Horford's back from injury, and Max Bielfeldt looked passable - even if he airballed a free throw - against Illinois.
Since they don't emphasize help defense in matchup sets, Northwestern struggles with hyperathletic wings, even more so than most teams do: Did you realize Glenn Robinson III is shooting 65 percent on twos this year? 65 percent! And he sometimes takes jumpshots!
Even though Northwestern doesn't help heavily, Northwestern has a tendency of losing shooters: Hey, it's Nik Stauskas! Announcers like to mention that he's "not just a shooter!", because he sometimes does other stuff effectively, but that's like saying Rambo isn't "just an unkillable death machine" because he has lines of dialogue.
Northwestern's best defensive weapon is running the 1-3-1 to throw teams off: MICHIGAN RUNS THE 1-3-1 AND WILL DESTROY IT LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL RUNNING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE BIGASS HAMS WITH THE BONE STICKING OUT OF IT. Even if they didn't run the 1-3-1 and know exactly what to do against it, they're one of the best teams in the nation at not turning the ball over and have a lot of guys who can shoot, so this would be an awful idea. It might be tempting to run just to get the ball out of Trey Burke's hands, but I feel like they'd just have Burke reverse it once, get the point man out of position, and reverse it right back, and then you've got Burke driving with a full head of steam at one wing defender and an out of position Alex Olah.
The good news is that Michigan gives up a lot of threes and doesn't foul a lot - no missed front ends of one-and-ones! - so NU could shoot themselves into the game if they heat up. But I think this is such a massive defensive mismatch - not to mention that it's on the road - that I'd be pleased with a close loss.
C'mon, y'all! Prove me wrong! I'd be totally down to be wildly wrong about this if it means NU beats a No. 1.