After a tough contest against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Michigan Wolverines return to Ann Arbor for a Saturday matinee versus the Houston Baptist Huskies. Tipoff is set for noon and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Houston Baptist is a first-year member of the Southland Conference, typically a lower tier mid-major league. Not exactly rich on basketball history, the Huskies have just a lone NCAA Tournament appearance way back in 1984. Head Coach Ron Cottrell is in his 21st season at Houston Baptist.
The 2013 Huskies are off to a modest 3-5 start in nonconference play. Their two main weapons to watch are the backcourt of Sophomore Rob Lewis and Junior Tyler Russell, whom together are averaging 25 points per game. The 6’11 Latvian Ricmonds Vilde provides the size in the middle for Houston Baptist. Special shout out to Marcel Smith of Detroit: the Junior guard is a major contributor for the Huskies in spite of his tiny 5’6 stature.
Michigan enters the first weekend of December at a less than stellar record of 5-3. Still, considering the competitiveness of the losses at Iowa State and against Charlotte, and the mere fact that Duke has not lost a home nonconference matchup since the Clinton Administration (a 2000 loss to St. John’s), a young Michigan team has little reason to hit the panic button. With plenty of other big opportunities looming large, including a monster home game versus the potentially number 1 nationally ranked Arizona Wildcats next week, Michigan would be well served to use the Houston Baptist contest as a serious tune-up for the more highly regarded opponents to come. Especially Glenn Robinson III, who was essentially a no-show for the marquee game at Duke, needs to assert himself and help out Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Mitch McGary on the offensive end. Derrick Walton Jr. and Spike Albrecht need to continue to improve production at the point guard position as well.
Barring an utter catastrophe or other out-worldly event, Michigan is poised to breeze by an overmatched and undersized Houston Baptist squad. How much improvement the Wolverines will make, with Arizona and an imposing Big Ten schedule awaiting, remains to be seen.