The 15th ranked Michigan Wolverines (2-0) are heading down to Orlando for the Thanksgiving weekend. They will participate in the Old Spice Classic at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Michigan will face Creighton (2-1) at noon on Thanksgiving Day. The Jays lost their season opener to Dayton 90-80 and have since won their next two games (Florida A&M, Arkansas Little-Rock). The Jays feature 5 players who are averaging at least 10 points per game led by P’Allen Stinnett who comes in at 12.7 ppg and has 12 assists against 10 turnovers. As a team the Jay’s have connected on 30 of 84 three-pointers (36%) in their first 3 games. The one negative stat about the Jays that jumped out at me was, they have turned the ball over 47 times in 3 games (15.6 avg). Michigan has only turned the ball over 17 times in 2 games (8.5 avg).
If Michigan defeats Creighton they will face the winner of Xavier vs. Marquette on Friday at noon. If they win that match-up they will play in the championship game on Sunday night at 7:30pm. The 4 teams on the other side of the bracket are; Florida State, Baylor (featuring former Wolverine Ekpe Udoh), Alabama, and Iona. Michigan is the only ranked team in the field and is considered the favorite to win the event. I posted Michigan’s full schedule in the comments below.
Michigan is led by All-American candidate, Manny Harris, who is fresh of the second triple-double in school history. DeShawn Sims leads Michigan in scoring averaging 22.0 ppg. John Beilein has a deep, versatile, and tight-knit team at his disposal. It will be interesting to see how he starts to fine tune the rotation during this event. Michigan can comfortably go 9 players deep and all 9 of those players are capable of knocking down the three-ball. The players love Beilein’s “If you’re open, shoot it” rule. The Wolverines are also proving to be a sharing bunch, as they have dished out 40 assists on 61 made field goals. That is good for a 66% ratio. John Beilein has said if Michigan can be in the 60-70% range that is “pretty darn good”.
We will find out a lot about Michigan over the course of the tournament as they will face 3 tough opponents in 4 days.
Two attacks to watch for in the Old Spice Classic and throughout the season
Zack Novak: He is capable of banging in 6 three-pointers in a game and he also does all the little things that are needed to win games. You will find the 6-foot-5, Novak battling in the paint for rebounds. You will see him diving across the floor to get his hands on a loose ball. He will do whatever it takes to help Michigan win.
Zack Gibson: The 6-foot-10, 5th year senior has developed a nice offensive game and now has the confidence to compliment it. He seems very comfortable in the offense this year as he seems to really know and understand the things he can and should be doing. He is poised to have a breakthrough season.
As I mentioned previously every player in Michigan’s rotation is capable of knocking down some three-balls. That means Michigan doesn’t have to rely on one player every night to be the three-point bomber. Take a look at the exhibition and Michigan’s first two regular season games for an idea of what I am talking about.
Wayne State: Zack Novak led the three-point attack, knocking down 5 of 8 from downtown.
Northern Michigan: Matt Vogrich drills 5 of 5 from three-point land.
Houston Baptist: DeShawn Sims knocks down 5 of 8 from beyond the arc, including 4 for 4 in a 5 minute span.
There will be games that Manny Harris, Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, or Anthony Wright get hot and drain 4 or 5 threes. Additionally, Zack Gibson and Darius Morris have the potential to get on a hot streak.
Prediction: Michigan is the best team in this field and I believe they will win this tournament. Even if they fall behind in a game they won’t panic. Like DeShawn Sims said last week, Michigan is not the most veteran team, but they are mentally experienced.