Due to the postponing of Tuesday's game between Michigan State and Rutgers as a result of inclement weather, Michigan and Nebraska present the sole Big Ten matchup of the night. John Beilein and the Wolverines will try for a home win to improve to 6-3 in conference play, while the Tim Miles coached Huskers seek to pull off a victory on the road. Who's got the edge when the two teams clash in Ann Arbor tonight?
Game of the Night
Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Michigan Wolverines - 7 ET (ESPN)
It never feels good coming close to a B1G upset but then letting it slip away (just ask Northwestern). But Michigan (12-8) had many positive takeaways from Saturday's loss to Wisconsin. Derrick Walton Jr. stepped up big for the Wolverines, putting up 17 points, including the game-tying three to send the game to overtime with just two seconds left on the clock. Walton has struggled at times this season, but with the prolonged absence of leading scorer Caris LeVert, he's starting to come into his own. He, along with teammate Zak Irvin will need to continue to play well if Michigan is to keep up with their solid conference record.
The key for Michigan is going to be their role players. As we have learned thus far this season, there is no one man that can take over for an injured star's production. A couple weeks ago, Illinois lost leading scorer Rayvonte Rice and was forced to compensate by playing team basketball. Same goes for Michigan. While guys like Walton, Irvin or Spike Albrecht are solid players, their production level is unlikely to match LeVert's. But through the involvement of role players like Aubrey Dawkins and Max Bielfeldt, this team still has the opportunity to make the tourney.
The Wolverines' most important task Tuesday night will be shutting down Terran Petteway. Petteway (19.6 PPG), one of the most explosive offensive players in the Big Ten, is coming off a 32 point performance in their 79-77 upset win over Michigan State Saturday. Likely to be given the task of guarding him is Zak Irvin. This individual matchup may be the most intriguing of the night. If Michigan can contain Petteway and his partner-in-crime Shavon Shields (16.7 PPG), they have a solid shot of pulling this one out.
Three point shooting allowed the Wolverines to stick with Wisconsin, and they will need to keep up the pace Tuesday. Dawkins has proven he can shoot (see Illinois game) and will need to heat up for the long run. A perimeter shooter of his caliber is an invaluable asset if he can realize his full potential. Look for Dawkins to get looks frequently as John Beilein tries to get him going.
This game is pivotal for both teams going forward. Michigan needs this one of they want to stay in the hunt for a tourney berth, as does Nebraska. The Huskers are still winless on the road in the Big Ten this season, a stat that will need to change for Tim Miles' crew. As proven through this conference season, anybody can beat anybody on any given night. Whatever the outcome, it should be a fight to the finish.