1. Can Josh Richardson slow down Nik Stauskas?
If you haven’t heard, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas is really stinking good. The sophomore averages 17.4 points per game, shoots 47.3 percent from the field and 45.1 percent from three. He also good for 3.3 assists per night.
“Nick Stauskas is a great player,” Josh Richardson said Tuesday. “He shoots threes. He drives to the hole. He can do pretty much everything. So, it will be a tough cover again. I think their offense pretty much flows through him. He leads them in points and assists. It will be crucial to try to get him out of his rhythm.”
Richardson, the first player UT has landed on the SEC’s all-defensive team since 2008, will try to do exactly that. He has had some impressive performances in the second half of the season, holding Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom (13.6 ppg) to a season-low four points, Auburn’s Chris Denson (19.1) to a season-low three and Missouri’s Jabari Brown (19.9) to a season-low eight.
This will probably be his toughest challenge, and he’s up for it.
“It’s just another player,” Richardson said. “I’ve been guarding guys like that for a while now. It’s nothing new.”
2. Who has the advantage, Jeronne Maymon or Glenn Robinson III?
Of Michigan’s starting five, Jordan Morgan (6-8, 250 pounds) is the only true big. Obviously, Jarnell Stokes will draw that assignment. But what is intriguing is the matchup between Maymon (6-8, 260) and GRIII (6-6, 220).
“For them, they think they have a mismatch with Glenn and Jeronne,” Jordan McRae said Tuesday. “We also think we have a mismatch with Jeronne and Glenn. It will be interesting to see what they do.”
Maymon (9.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is a bruise brother (Yeah, that’s apparently a thing now). He’s taken one 3-pointer all season — it didn’t go in — and prefers to hang out down low. According to Hoop-Math, 72.9 percent of Maymon’s shots are at the rim, meaning they’re layups or put-backs.
Meanwhile GRIII (13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) roams. Only 24.2 percent of his shots are at the rim. Often, those come in transition (see here). He’ll also shoot the three, though not very well. His 3-point percentage has dropped from 32.4 percent to 28.6 percent since last season.
Can Maymon keep up with faster, lighter forward who is going to want to run and jump and shoot from all over? Can GRIII grab rebounds and hold his own on defense against a bigger, stronger traditional big?
3. Which way will the whistles blow?
Through three NCAA tournament games, the Vols have averaged 29 free throw attempts per game. Their opponents have averaged 12, if you round up. UT is making the difference hurt, too. It’s shot 82.8 percent from the stripe in tournament play. Leading the charge is Jarnell Stokes, who has made 25 of 29 free throws in the tournament. Right now his free-throw percentage has increased 13 percent since last season; it’s now up to 69.7 percent.
“I feel like Jarnell gets fouled every time down there,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I really do. I’m not saying that to say the officials are bad. But, because he’s so big and his lower body is so strong, you don’t move him, sometimes they don’t make the call. But, I think in the NCAA tournament, the calls are being made more so than probably in other settings.”
If things stay that way in Indianapolis, it will benefit the Vols. But know that Michigan rarely fouls. The Wolverines average just 17.1 per game.