South Carolina State at Michigan
Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
7 pm Eastern, Tuesday
Michigan –28 (Kenpom)
BTDN/MGoBlue (subscription required)
Right: This "paws-a-tively charming" plush Bulldog mascot is available for the low, low price of $24.00!
South Carolina State went 6-24 (2-14 MEAC) last year with wins over Claflin, Webber*, NJIT**, Jacksonville, North Carolina A&T, and Delaware State. Just one SCSU player finished the season with an offensive rating above 100: 6'11" preseason All-MEAC center Matthew Hezekiah, the one player who can give Michigan anything resembling a matchup problem.
Thus far this year, the Bulldogs lost by 16 on the road to #214 Marshall and required overtime to defeat NAIA St. Andrews Presbyterian by four points. SCSU is currently ranked #340 on KenPom out of 351 teams, 16 spots worse than season-opening (and Division I debuting) opponent UMass Lowell.
THE THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE
Finish, big man. Jon Horford hauled in five offensive rebounds against UMass Lowell; while that part was good, his finishing was not, as he went 2-8 from the field, most of those simple putbacks. Everyone has their off-nights, and Horford did hit a nice fallaway jumper; it'd be encouraging if he'd connect more often around the basket, though, and Hezekiah will provide a decent test for him.
Start settling on a rotation. Michigan was tied at the half against Lowell in large part due to some lineup experimentation by John Beilein that didn't work out too well. At this point, I think it's safe to phase out the two bigs stuff until Mitch McGary is healthy—even then, I have my questions about its potential efficacy. Normally I'd say it's early in the season to start cutting down on the rotation, but a trip to Iowa State looms on Sunday. Even in the case of a blowout, I'd like to see Michigan start settling into a groove with their substitution patterns.
Establish the pick-and-roll early. The other big factors in Michigan's early struggles during the opener were a lack of proper spacing and poor execution on the pick-and-roll. They got it going in the second half, especially with LeVert and Stauskas handling the ball; I'd still like to see it more—guarding 6'6" guys who can handle the rock, finish at the rim, and shoot from deep is pretty difficult when they're properly utilizing picks.
Keep using GRIII as a post threat. Glenn Robinson III posted up a few times against Lowell, something we didn't see at all from him last year; while he didn't get field goals out of these, he got to the free-throw line multiple times. With his added bulk and athletic mismatch against just about anyone who's going to guard him, it's worth testing out if he's got enough of a back-to-the-basket game to at least take advantage when he's being guarded by smaller players.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 28
UMHoops preview with more info on the Bulldogs. Mitch McGary progressing, doing more in practice, "looks very good," and... still no timetable for his return. (Despite that last bit, that's pretty encouraging.)
According to U-M Media Relations, the captains this year are Jon Horford, Jordan Morgan, and Glenn Robinson III. It's just the ninth time in program history that they've had three or more captains, and Robinson is only the fourth sophomore to earn the distinction.
In another release, the department announced that Robinson and McGary are two of the 50 players on the preseason Wooden Award watch list.
*I'm going to assume they played a 40-year-old Chris Webber five-on-one and still gave up 66 points. Please don't correct me on this.
**NJIT avenged this defeat just six days later in a rare non-conference home-and-home and won on aggregate.