Can Michigan Improve on the Interior Against Michigan State?

By Alex Dale
Rich Barnes- USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines were in a funk throughout February, but can March be better?

Michigan’s primary troubles have come from their interior defense and rebounding.  Throughout their poor month of February, with a 3-4 record, these two weaknesses have been the cause of so much of there troubles.

Michigan’s defensive rebounding, in particular, has been their biggest weakness. Their defensive rebounding percentage is just 68 percent, seventh in the Big Ten. That means about one in three missed shots by the Wolverines’ opponents results in a second chance.

In their most recent loss to Penn State, Michigan conceded three offensive rebounds on a single possession and eight in the first half.

Michigan is not a good enough initial defensive team to be able to allow their opponents second chance scoring. While they hold the sixth highest field goal percentage in the country, .495, they give up the 143rd best field goal percentage to their opponents.

National title contenders can’t give up the 143rd highest field goal percentage. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter how good your offense is if you can’t stop other teams on defense. When you do get a stop, you have to be able to get the rebound. Michigan hasn’t been able to do that, specifically in February, and that will limit the Wolverines unless they improve their rebounding and defense.

That improvement is going to have to start on Sunday, when they host Michigan State. The Spartans are one of the best interior teams in the Big Ten and in the entire country. The duo of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are dominant and destroyed Michigan in the Spartans’ win a couple of weeks ago. Payne and Nix were a combined plus 48 while Michigan’s Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary were a combined minus 31.

Michigan needs to play better inside if they want to go deep in to the tournament. Whether they are capable of doing so is unknown, but if Michigan is going to improve in the interior, they might as well start against Michigan State on Sunday.

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