Iowa Basketball: Get To Know Michigan Wolverines

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Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A look at the Michigan Wolverines, who Iowa will play on January 1

New year and hopefully a new team shows up for Iowa basketball. After an 89-67 loss to Purdue to start conference play, the 8-6 Hawkeyes are looking to bounce back at home against a good Michigan team.

The Wolverines are starting Big Ten play a little late. They have been off since December 22, and Iowa is their first conference opponent of the 2016-17 season.

Michigan enters conference play 10-3 and spent a little time ranked by the Associated Press before losing to South Carolina 61-46 that same week.

This season, Michigan is 3-3 against Power Five schools with wins over SMU, Marquette and Texas.

Along with losing to South Carolina, Michigan suffered a three-point loss to Virginia Tech and fell to UCLA 102-84 in a game they played very well in the first half. Michigan and UCLA were tied 50-50 at halftime before UCLA’s offense became too much to handle.

Nonetheless, Michigan comes in on a three-game winning streak. Michigan beat both Central Arkansas and Maryland-Eastern Shore by more than 40, however had a tougher time against Furman in their final non-conference game.

Maybe they weren’t as focused with conference play and a long break coming up, but a measly 68-62 win won’t speak highly about them come Selection Sunday.

Michigan is 0-2 in true road games this year but will try to snap that streak in Iowa City on January 1. Iowa and Michigan will tipoff at 1:15 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.

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Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

John Beilein

Michigan had not made the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons when John Beilein took over as head coach in 2007-08. The Wolverines ended their 10 year drought the next year, though, when Michigan went 21-14 and lost in the second round to Oklahoma.

After working his way up from Canisius to Richmond to West Virginia, Beilein is now one of the better coaches in the Big Ten. He has 793 career wins and is looking for his 200th win at Michigan when Michigan travels to Iowa City.

200 wins would just be a small part of Beilein’s already historic legacy. He’s brought Michigan to six NCAA Tournaments in his first nine seasons, with Michigan 10-3 this year and looking like another Tournament appearance is likely.

Plus, Michigan has won at least one game in the Tournament every time and went to the National Championship in 2012-13. It was Michigan’s fifth championship game appearance, but they lost 82-76 to Louisville. Still, only Steve Fisher brought Michigan to the national championship quicker than Beilein’s six years.

Michigan has also won at least 20 games six times under Beilein, and the Associated Press ranking them 25th earlier in the year marks the eighth season the Wolverines have been ranked under him, as well.

Michigan is known as a football school, but they’re quietly a very good basketball school, too. They went through a rough patch under Tommy Amaker, but Beilein has brought them back to relevance on the national stage.

Maybe the Fab Five days won’t return, but he’s just 10 wins away from tying Johnny Orr‘s 209 wins at Michigan for the most in school history.

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Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Players To Watch

Zak Irvin: 14.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 45.8 FG%, 37.9 3P%

Michigan doesn’t have a star, but Zak Irvin is arguably their best player. He leads the team in scoring and ranks second in rebounding and assists per game. The senior guard has scored double-digit points in 11 games this season, and he enters Big Ten play on a hot streak — shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from three.

Part of it is due to Michigan’s easy non-conference schedule, but he did record 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds against UCLA. Michigan wants to run their offense through him because of his size and versatile scoring. That said, he did shoot under 20 percent twice this year and just 30.8 percent against Howard to start the year.

Irvin is shooting well from the outside, but he’s more efficient when he gets to the basket. Iowa’s big men have to protect the paint and force Irvin to take threes. If he penetrates, it will create easier opportunities for him and his teammates since he’s a willing passer.

Derrick Walton Jr: 12.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 40.2 FG%, 41.0 3P%

Derrick Walton Jr is just 6-1, therefore he and Jordan Bohannon match-up well. Although, Bohannon will have his hands full against a point guard who has made a living at Michigan getting into the lane.

Walton’s shooting percentage is a huge surprise after only shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three as a junior last year. Even though he’s shooting better, he still shot under 35 percent in seven games this season and 37.5 percent against Mt. St. Mary’s.

That makes stopping Walton’s outside shot very important for Iowa. Michigan is 5-0 when Walton shoots above 50 percent and just 4-3 when he shoots below 35 percent. It adds spacing to Michigan’s offense and forces teams to hone in on him, which allows him to set up his teammates.

Zak Irvin is arguably Michigan’s best player, but their most important player is Derrick Walton Jr. The offense runs through him, and they’re significantly better when his outside shot is falling.

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