Glenn Robinson III

Christmas Wish List: Michigan hopes to bolster interior this holiday season

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Interior Depth

What do you get a team that has (almost) everything? The Wolverines have three legitimate scorers, among them one of the nation’s best point guards, Trey Burke. They have a three-point threat in freshman Nik Stauskas, who is shooting nearly 55 percent from behind the arc. They have rebounders with Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary. They don’t turn the ball over. They’re in the Top 10 in the country in shooting percentage.

But outside of McGary and Morgan, especially considering Saturday’s injury to Jon Horford, Michigan is thin on the front line. Coach Jon Beilein started Burke, three wings, and Morgan against West Virginia, with McGary off the bench. Against larger teams in the Big Ten, Beilein may need to boost the minutes of his interior players, but it can only go so far. Despite the weakness, Michigan is a legitimate Top 3 team.

Stocking stuffer: Defense around the rim

The stocking stuffer circles back to Michigan’s lack of depth on the interior. They don’t desperately need it, but they rank 260th in the country in blocks per game as a team with 2.6. Both Morgan and McGary are not shotblocking bigs, though their ability to rebound takes away the sting of not blocking shots. Horford, who dislocated his knee cap Saturday night against West Virginia, is the team’s leading shot blocker with–get this– 0.5 blocks per game. Half a block per game.

Planning on re-gifting: The upcoming Big Ten schedule

Despite their early success, the Wolverines will have a grueling Big Ten slate when conference play roles around. As it stands now, Michigan will play nine of its 18 conference games against teams ranked in the nation’s Top 20, including on the road against No. 7 Ohio State, No. 13 Minnesota, No. 10 Illinois, No. 1 Indiana, and No. 19 Michigan State.

The conference schedule begins Jan. 3 against Northwestern.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.