Saturday Night at 6pm (ESPN3.com) the beloved Wolfpack will host the Detroit Titans in Historic Reynolds Coliseum. Detroit (#160, 5-5) lost 4 starters from last year’s squad that went 20-13, finished 2nd in the Horizon League, and went to the NIT. They have a lot of new faces (2 Transfers, 1 JUCO, and 3 freshmen) and are still feeling out their roles, just as the Pack is. The focus of the team is all everything small forward Juwan Howard, Jr. , son of Michigan’s Fab Five Juwan Howard, more about him later.
Detroit isn’t pushing the tempo as much as last year, and that may be a result of having so many new faces but they are still faster than the Pack is currently, which is likely a combination of our new faces and the slow poke teams we’ve played so far. The Titans also aren’t shooting the ball very well this year, especially compared to last year. They haven’t been good inside or outside the arc but they are one of the best at the charity stripe (offense and defense), which doesn’t bode well for the Pack since we are struggling at the line and teams are shooting FT’s lights out against us. It doesn’t matter who from Detroit we send to the line they all shoot the ball over 84% from the FT except Brundidge (63%) and Njoku who is an abysmal 25%.
Fun Fact: Detroit is 39-3 when scoring 80 or more points during Coach McCallum’s 6 years there. So expect to see a much faster paced game than what we’ve been seeing lately.
A quick look at the Pack this year:
As we all know the Pack isn’t shooting very well behind the arc but in actuality we are horrible. What is our saving grace is we’re one of the best in the country inside the arc. The Pack is great in 3 of the 4 factors, struggling at getting to the FT line hurts but since we’re struggling at the line anyway maybe that’s a glass half full thing. Defensively the Pack is effective at both inside and outside the arc, which is a pleasant surprise from previous years under Gott and Sid but for goodness sake can we please step up our FT defense?? Teams are shooting a blistering 81.1% from the line against us. THAT’S UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!
- #2 Juwan Howard Jr. (6-6, 210, JR) Forward – Juwan started his career at Western Michigan before transferring to Detroit after his freshmen year and it was a smart decision for him. Howard is the only returning starter from last year’s squad and has increased his role on the team as such. He’s gone from a role player to the Titans go to guy (sound eerily familiar?) by increasing his possessions from 18% to 28% and the percent of the teams shots from 18% to 32%. Howard is Detroit’s version of T.J. Warren, just not as effective with the ball as Buckets who has a +25 ORating over Jr. Howard also takes way too many three’s for a guy shooting just 27% from three-point land.
- #23 Carlton Brundidge (6-3, 202, SO) Guard – Brundidge came to Detroit via Michigan as well, transferring after his freshmen season. Brundidge doesn’t excel at anything but is decent at everything.
- #11 Jarod Williams (6-2, 168, FR) Guard – Williams is good at finding his man for the assist but as most freshmen he struggles with turnovers. Still Jarod has a solid 113 ORating while taking 18% of the team’s possessions and a 50% eFG percentage.
- #33 Evan Bruinsma (6-8, 214, SR) Forward – Bruinsma has increased his role on the team from 14% to 19.4% of the team’s possessions but the increase has not hurt is ORating of +110. He’s not shooting the 2 or 3 anywhere close to last year but he’s increased his FT% (plus he’s doubled his trips to the line compared to his shots) as well as increasing his rebounding and decreasing his TO%. He will be a dangerous player is he finds his shooting touch from his previous 3 years.
- #15 Ugochukwu Njoku (6-10, 220, SR) Center – Njoku may only play half the game and take only 13.6% of the team’s possessions but he makes his presence known when he’s on the court. He’s the team’s main rebounder (followed closely by Onwenu) and is a shot blocker at 10%. Just for reference Vandwagon is 12.4% and Anya is 11%. He’s solid around the basket at 50% but atrocious at the FT line (25%). Hint: Foul Him.
#5 Matthew Grant (6-1, 165, FR), #4 Patrick Onwenu (6-8, 210, JR), #1 Anton Wilson (6-5, 191, SO), #21 Jermaine Lippert (6-8, 230, SR)
Grant and Onwenu will likely be the first 2 off the bench, while Lippert will play sparingly. Grant plays about half the game but is doing very well with his time on the court and is contributing quite a bit to the team with an ORating of 117 and 20% of the team’s possessions. He’s able to get to the FT line and capitalizes while there, has a good assist rate and low TO rate. Keep an eye on this kid Saturday. Onwenu is a JUCO transfer and is taking about 22% of the team’s possessions but isn’t nearly as effective with the ball as Grant is, sporting a 90.8 ORating. Onwenu excels at rebounding on both ends of the court but has a 38% eFG percentage.
This should be an interesting game, again another close game throughout. Could be the same as LBSU where we might get a small-moderate lead but can never shake them. At least this shouldn’t be a game where Detroit is constantly trying to slow this down to a crawl but looking to push the tempo which could play right into our hands. KenPom likes us to win by 10 and I agree.