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Sport Michigan basketball vs. Louisville: Scouting report, prediction for top-5 clash

20:05  03 december  2019
20:05  03 december  2019 Source:   freep.com

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Tuesday night, Juwan Howard and Michigan basketball will enter a hostile road environment for the first time this season.

Just four days after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on neutral ground in the Bahamas, the fourth-ranked Wolverines will face No. 1 Louisville on the road at the KFC Yum! Center (7:30 p.m., ESPN)

The top-5 matchup is one the biggest matchups as part of the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge, featuring a talented, veteran team in Louisville — and a pretty similar team in Michigan, although few anticipated just how good the Wolverines would be after losing their top three scorers and the program's winningest coach.

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Howard and his players have made this a seamless transition, though. And Tuesday's big game provides an opportunity to notch yet another signature win, after last week's top-10 wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga. 

More: Jon Teske is a big reason — literally — why Michigan basketball is hot right now

a group of people playing instruments and performing on a stage: Michigan coach Juwan Howard and players celebrate winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament after U-M's 82-64 win over Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis final in Paradise Island, Bahamas on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. © Kevin Jairaj, Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Michigan coach Juwan Howard and players celebrate winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament after U-M's 82-64 win over Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis final in Paradise Island, Bahamas on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. "We’re going to a lions den, I would say," Howard said Monday afternoon. "They play extremely well at home. This is going to be our first time being road-tested in non-conference play. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and I know our players are too."

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Here are three things to watch: 

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Mark Few et al. playing a game of frisbee: Michigan forward Isaiah Livers reacts during the second half of U-M's 82-64 win over Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis final in Paradise Island, Bahamas on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. © Kevin Jairaj, Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Michigan forward Isaiah Livers reacts during the second half of U-M's 82-64 win over Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis final in Paradise Island, Bahamas on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.

Slowing down Nwora

Louisville's Jordan Nwora has had an outstanding season and currently leads KenPom.com's player of the year standings. The 6-7, 225-pound forward averages a team-high 21.9 points and is shooting 50.8% on 2-pointers and 50% on 3-pointers. Nwora could've entered  the NBA draft, but chose to stay and has been one of the nation's top scorers. He is essentially Louisville's entire offense: when he's on the floor, Nwora uses 31.9% of his team's possessions and takes 36.5% of the shots. And though his usage has increased, Nwora has actually increased his efficiency, with a career-best 119.5 offensive rating according to KenPom.com.

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  Louisville is new No. 1, unranked Michigan goes to No. 4 Louisville is the latest No. 1 following an unexpected loss by Duke. Michigan has matched a record by debuting at No. 4. A season of parity is taking a toll in the AP Top 25. 

Nwora will likely draw Isaiah Livers, and it'll be a huge test for Michigan's junior forward. If the Wolverines can slow down Nwora, it'll force other Cardinals to step up on offense. That seems like it'd be a win for Michigan, considering how efficient Nwora has been thus far.

Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (33) attempts to drive past the defense of Akron center Deng Riak (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Louisville, Ky., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) © The Associated Press Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (33) attempts to drive past the defense of Akron center Deng Riak (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Louisville, Ky., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Who will take (and make) more 3s?

Both Michigan and Louisville are among the top 3-point shooting teams in the nation, averaging 42.4% and 40.8%, respectively (No. 9 and No. 14 nationally). The Cardinals are buoyed by three players who shoot 50% or better: Nwora (20-of-40), Ryan McMahon (21-of-39) and Dwayne Sutton (8-of-15). Michigan has two shooters topping 50% — Isaiah Livers (21-of-41) and Eli Brooks (16-of-32) — but David DeJulius (11-of-23) and Zavier Simpson (4-of-9) aren't far off. Franz Wagner, who returned from injury against Iowa State this past week, carries a reputation for being a top shooter, as well.

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The two defenses, though, differ on defending the 3-point line. Michigan is allowing opponents to shoot 3-pointers on just 25.3% of all shots, good for seventh-lowest in the nation. This is by design, as the Wolverines look to limit opposing 3s and force teams into taking inefficient midrange shots. Louisville, meanwhile, has seen its opponents take 41.5% their shots from beyond the arc — a sizable proportion. That means that Michigan should be able to shoot a lot from deep while limiting Louisville's 3-point attempts. That would bebode well for the Wolverines' chances of winning.

More: Juwan Howard has Michigan basketball looking elite after run in Bahamas. Here's how

a group of people watching a football ball: Michigan center Jon Teske reacts during the first half against Gonzaga on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, in Paradise Island, Bahamas. © Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports Michigan center Jon Teske reacts during the first half against Gonzaga on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Limiting turnovers

One key element has stopped Michigan's offense from becoming elite: turnovers. The Wolverines typically took care of the ball under former coach John Beilein, but have struggled this season with a turnover percentage of 19.4% — that's basically one turnover every five possessions.

Of course, the Wolverines have run their offense at a fast pace — with more possessions and more shots — and are shooting the ball at an elite level. (Their effective field-goal percentage of 61.4% ranks No. 2 nationally.) That has somewhat counteracted the effect of all the turnovers. Still, it's never good to give away possessions — especially in a tough environment. If the Wolverines' shooting drops off, they'll need to make up for it by turning the ball over less.

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  Louisville basketball stakes claim as NCAA's No. 1 team with win over Western Kentucky Louisville basketball rolled over Western Kentucky on Friday in Nashville, paving the way for the Cardinals to take over as No. 1 in the polls.Louisville rode strong performances from Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton on Friday to a 71-54 win over Western Kentucky in front of a split crowd in Nashville.

More: Michigan basketball crushes No. 7 Gonzaga, 82-64, to win Battle 4 Atlantis title

a man holding a basketball: U of L forward Samuell Williamson (10) dunked against Youngstown State during their game at the Yum Center on Nov. 10, 2019 © Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal U of L forward Samuell Williamson (10) dunked against Youngstown State during their game at the Yum Center on Nov. 10, 2019

Prediction

Louisville is one of the deepest and most experienced teams in the country, returning six of last year's seven top scorers. Coach Chris Mack has things humming in his second season and also brought in a top recruiting class that includes touted freshman Samuell Williamson, averaging 7.1 points off the bench. The Cardinals are good, and they're at home. Michigan is very good, too, with the most impressive resume in the nation thanks to last week's tournament. But Louisville's depth, combined with home-court advantage, could prove too much for the Wolverines. Louisville 75, Michigan 72

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball vs. Louisville: Scouting report, prediction for top-5 clash

Buckeyes tip No. 2 Louisville women in Big Ten/ACC Challenge .
Dorka Juhasz scored 15 points and Kierstan Bell added 14 as Ohio State knocked off No. 2 Louisville 67-60 in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on Thursday night. Ohio State took a 60-53 lead with 5 minutes left after Bell turned a steal into a layup and Juhasz scored from underneath. The Cardinals closed to within 62-57 at the 3-minute mark and were within five points with 17 seconds left, but couldn't score. A pair of foul shots by Madison Greene sealed it late for the Buckeyes.Dana Evans had 18 points for the Cardinals (8-1), who were plagued by poor shooting, especially down thee stretch when they had to chase the Buckeyes.

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