Michigan Basketball has faced a punishing schedule this year

Michigan Basketball (6-4) is closing in on the end of what has been a hellacious non-conference schedule. The Wolverines have faced 3 teams currently ranked in the Top 13 of the Coaches Poll and two of those games were on the road, at Iowa State and at Duke. The results haven’t been favorable to Michigan’s win-loss record as U-M has lost 4 games, including a two point loss to #1 ranked Arizona this past weekend.

Meanwhile, Ohio State has feasted on a cupcake laden schedule that has featured nine home games. Not surprisingly the Buckeyes have rolled to a 10-0 record. So while Michigan is being nit-picked by analysts across the country, Ohio State has coasted to the top of the polls. See below for a side-by-side comparison of the schedules.

South Carolina State
at Iowa State
Long Beach State
Florida State
Coppin State
at Duke
Houston Baptist
Ohio State
Morgan State
at Marquette
North Florida
Central Connecticut
North Dakota State

Michigan will attempt to salvage their non-conference schedule with a quality win on Saturday when they play Stanford (8-2) in New York. The Cardinal are riding high after knocking off #10 UConn on Wednesday night. Following the Stanford game, Michigan will close out the non-conference portion of their schedule at home against Holy Cross. If they can win both games, they’ll enter Big Ten play with an 8-4 record and, no matter what, they’ll be as battle tested as any team in the country.

Despite the four losses, Michigan is going to be ok. They are doing the things you would expect from a John Beilein coached team. They rank 3rd nationally in fewest fouls per game, 7th in turnovers and 10th in three-pointers per game. Sure it would be nice to enter conference play with a perfect record, but they didn’t have the luxury of an Ohio State type of schedule that would allow that to happen.

The Wolverines had a full week off to prepare for the Arizona game and very nearly knocked off the top-ranked Wildcats. They’ve had another full week off to prepare for the Stanford game and that bodes well for their chances to capture a victory on Saturday night.

What we’ve learned so far

michigan basketballWe already knew this, but Michigan needs a healthy Mitch McGary. He is a rare talent who plays with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. He is a double-double waiting to happen every time he steps on the court.

We were spoiled by Trey Burke. He is a special player and has been proving that point in the NBA. On Wednesday night he posted 30 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds for the Jazz.

Derrick Walton is talented, but hasn’t found his rhythm yet. Remember Darius Morris averaged just 4.4 points per game as a freshman before having a fabulous sophomore season. Walton will be ok, he just needs time to master Beilein’s system.

Nik Stauskas can be a go-t0 guy, but he has to play better in the big games. In the losses to Arizona and Duke, Stauskas was a combined 1-5 from beyond the arc.

Caris LeVert continues to develop at an astonishing rate. He’s far from a finished product, but has played very well for U-M. He scored a game-high 24 points at Duke and can create his own shot.

Glenn Robinson III is the X-factor. When he is assertive on offense, not settling for three-pointers, Michigan is a dangerous team. Robinson is one of the premier above the rim players in the country and has to attack the basket more.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to their grueling non-conference schedule, Michigan will be ready for Big Ten play. They’ll kick off the conference slate at Minnesota on January 2nd. By the time March rolls around, the Wolverines will be in high gear and they’ll be a team nobody wants to play in the tourney.

For more Michigan Basketball news, recruiting updates and opinion, visit our Michigan Basketball page. You can follow me on twitter @isportsRob

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