Michigan basketball is ranked #3 in the nation with a 6-0 record and will play their first true road game of the year on Saturday at Bradley. The game will tip at 4 eastern and be televised on ESPNU.
The Bradley Braves are 5-1 in the early going after a horrific 7-25 record a season ago. The teams that Bradley has knocked off in the early going are a who’s-who of who cares: Eastern Illinois, Texas Pan-Am, IUPUI, Tennessee-Martin, and Central Michigan. Their lone loss came against South Florida when they were thumped by 19.
The Wolverines are fresh off a win against NC State and have also upended solid Pitt and Kansas State teams.
Why Michigan will win
Well, quite simply, because they are vastly superior to Bradley. The Braves use a 7-man rotation and have 5 players averaging in double figures. Michigan has gone 10 and 11 deep into their roster in the early part of the season and will wear Bradley out on Saturday.
The NC State game saw John Beilein toy with a dual point guard lineup that had both Trey Burke and Spike Albrecht on the court together as well as multiple dual post looks.
Michigan averages 9.3 turnovers per game, 6th fewest in the nation. They commit 12 fouls per game, 2nd best. And the Burke-led Wolverines rank 4th nationally in team field goal percentage at 52.9%, paving the way to an 80.8 points per game average thus far.
Michigan isn’t shooting themselves in the foot, are playing unselfishly, and converting buckets at a prolific rate. That’s a nice little recipe for good basketball.
What Michigan needs to work on
This is in no way meant to pick on a real up and comer in Glenn Robinson III, but he showed several freshman moments on Tuesday night that the Michigan coaches will want to get cleaned up. He committed a charge when he drove wildly to the hoop. He weakly fouled a post scorer, allowing an and-1 situation after the layup. He failed to block out on multiple occasions on the defensive end and he committed a costly turnover with under a minute left in the game.
Some might call this nitpicking, especially consider that GR3 is averaging 12.2 points and leads the team in rebounding at 7.5/game all the while shooting 55% from the floor. But Robinson is a special talent. If he can clean up his occasional mistakes, it gives Michigan an even deadlier 4-headed monster along with Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Nik Stauskas.
The NC State game was also the first time all year that Michigan got housed on the boards. The Wolfpack’s lanky roster out-boarded Michigan 30-22. What was once a given weakness for the Wolverines has mostly been and should always be a team strength with their new look roster. Watch for Michigan to make big strides in this department in the coming weeks.
What to watch for
Hardaway (17.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Burke (16.7 ppg, 7.5 apg), and Stauskas (13 ppg, 58% from 3-pt. range) have been sensational and, along with Robinson, seem to be the perfect complement of star performers. No individual player gets in the way of another’s strengths, and that is hard to find.
On Tuesday night, Burke became the first college player to post a game with at least 18 points, 11 assists, and 0 turnovers against a ranked opponent since 2003. He is in tune with when to be the passer and when to take the ball and put it through the hole. Michigan hasn’t seen a point guard this spectacular in ages.
Stauskas is garnering some much-deserved early season fanfare and hype. People are playing the comparison and nickname games with Nik. From my perspective, he reminds me of one of my all-time favorite college basketball players, former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Dennis Scott.
Regardless, he is a lot of fun to watch and presents all kinds of problems for teams trying to figure out how to defend Michigan.
On top of the obvious, Mitch McGary seems to be taking big strides each time out on the court. He played an inspired game on Tuesday and helped carry Michigan past a feisty NC State team down the stretch. Once Jordan Morgan really gets it rolling and starts rocking the rim there will be no stopping this team.
Enjoy the ride.
So far Rob and I are each 6-0 in predicting the outcomes of Michigan games. Since we both have them going 16-0 before their first loss of the season it really keeps things simple.
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