When Michigan(14-10, 4-7) and Northwestern(14-8, 4-7) battle tonight at 6:00ET on the Big Ten Network, both teams will be looking for a much needed win. A win here by either team would push them in front of the other in the Big Ten standings. It is a big game as far as seeding goes for the Big Ten Tournament.
If either of these teams even have the slightest chance of an NCAA Tournament birth, this is a must win game. I do not think either of these teams make the NCAA Tournament, no matter how they finish due to the ever expanding bubble. We have seen two Big Ten teams pushed back on it in the last week, and we could see more with how the Illini and the Golden Gophers are currently playing.
Northwestern is lead by Wildcat great John Shurna. He averages 15 points per game, and was the leading scorer in the Big Ten at one point in the season, averaging over 20 points per game before he injured his ankle. He is also the leading rebounder for the Wildcats. Shurna is backed by Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford, Thompson averages 13 points per game, while Crawford averages 10 points per game.
Michigan's squad is lead by Darius Morris, who averages 16 points per game. Also for the Wolverines, Tim Hardway Jr. averages 13 points per game, and nearly five boards per game. Zack Novak has stepped up his game and averages 10 points per game and is the leading rebounder on the team with six rebounds per game. The Wolverines also have another good rebounder in Jordan Morgan who averages five per game.
(More after the jump)
Overall, I think this will be a close game down to the last five minutes. Whichever team can out rebound the other will probably be the winner. Both teams need to play good defense and force turnovers. If you force a turnover, convert it into points.
The ESPN spread is two points favoring Northwestern. It is at Michigan so Michigan should be there with Northwestern the whole way.
Both of these teams came into the season with different story lines, but both are in the same boat tonight. Last time these two met, Michigan lost at Northwestern 74-60. I expect it to be a lot closer than that tonight.