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Michigan Basketball vs. South Carolina: Preview and Prediction

The No. 5 Michigan Wolverines will host the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday in this mid-day matchup.

Michigan is looking for its 10th straight win to stay undefeated while South Carolina is hoping to recoup confidence after a nine-point loss to Wyoming. Here is a preview, and a prediction for this early season battle between these two teams.

What: Michigan (9-0; 2-0 Big Ten) vs. South Carolina (4-4; 0-0 SEC)

When: Saturday, December 8, 12:00 PM on FS1

Where: Crisler Center, University of Michigan

Keys to Victory for Michigan:

Given that this game is being played in Ann Arbor, the arena will undoubtedly give the Wolverines an edge. The crowd will be on their side, and the team will use that energy to generate momentum.

Michigan Basketball
Michigan Wolverines guard Charles Matthews (1). Photo by: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

According to KenPom, Michigan is the number one ranked defense in the country. An example of Michigan’s defensive dominance is through the turnover differential. Michigan has forced its opponents into 12.6 turnovers-per-game, while the Wolverines are at 9.1 per game.

As the distributor on offense, Zavier Simpson is the person who has the basketball in his hand for a majority of the time. Thus, it would make sense if he had a high turnover rate. However, this is not the case; in fact, his +3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio puts him 25th in the nation. Exceptional ball-handling prevents teams from stealing the basketball and scoring easy fastbreak buckets.

Scoring off turnovers is the only way opposing teams can counter Michigan’s top-notch defense because it enables them to rack up points before the Wolverines can set up their defensive schemes. Therefore, limiting turnovers will secure a Michigan victory.

On the offensive side, Charles Matthews must have a bounce-back performance after scoring three-points against Northwestern on 1-of-7 field goal attempts. More importantly, he needs to show NBA scouts that he is the leader of the team on offense to boost his draft stock. All in all, Matthews is a senior with the experience of recovering from a disappointing display. He will be looking to tally at least 20-points to prove to others, and himself, that he is an NBA-caliber player.

Keys to Victory for South Carolina:

South Carolina’s leading scorer, A.J. Lawson, is averaging 14.9 points-per-game. Nevertheless, he will need to score well over his season average. Along with forcing turnovers, this is another way that South Carolina can attack the Michigan defense.

Moreover, the South Carolina defense must shut down Michigan’s three-pointers. The Wolverine offense is averaging 8.0 made-three-pointers on 36.0 percent shooting. This long-ranged weapon is deadly when the opposing defense cannot guard it, and the Gamecocks will have to limit its impact on the outcome of the game to attain maximum success.

Another key for South Carolina will be to keep composure when Michigan goes on a run. For instance, look at the Northwestern Wildcats– who were down by double-digits for the majority of the match versus Michigan. Despite this setback, they fought hard, had an excellent chance to win, and nearly handed the Wolverines their first loss of the season.

Prediction

In nearly every game this season, Michigan’s defense freezes its opponents for a lengthened period which allows the Wolverines to build a significant lead.

The Gamecocks will need to play flawlessly for an opportunity to win. If they let Michigan go on extended runs, then their probability of winning is slim-to-none. Lastly, Michigan will be locked in and ride its home court advantage for the duration of the match.

Final Score: Michigan 68 – South Carolina 52

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