Seven times out of ten. That’s how many times the Michigan Wolverines have heard their names called on Selection Sunday while under the direction of Coach John Beilein. With the departure of veteran stalwarts Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin, and the early departure of DJ Wilson to the NBA, Michigan is coming into this season with a lower profile on the national radar. However, they have been in this position before and proved doubters wrong. Did anyone outside of Ann Arbor think Michigan was going to the NCAA title game in 2013? Or would win the outright Big Ten regular season championship the following year? Or how about the run to the Big Ten Tournament title a season ago? Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman are all back from that team, and they will look to make it eight of eleven for their coach.
Early games to remember
Maui Jim Maui Invitational (Nov 20-22) – Michigan starts the tournament off against LSU, with Notre Dame and Chaminade as the other teams on their side of the bracket. The opposite side holds Wichita State, VCU, Marquette, and California.
North Carolina (Nov 29) – Huge matchup with the defending champion Tar Heels in Chapel Hill as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
UCLA (Dec 9) – The Bruins lost a lot from their high-powered team, but this will be the biggest non-conference matchup the Wolverines have at home this season.
Texas (Dec 12) – Another great road game, even more tantalizing with Texas’ addition of freshman big man Mo Bamba, who was considering Michigan.
Projected record (20-11) (10-8)
Mixed in with their cupcakes, Michigan should have some hard tests to start the season. The Maui Jim Maui Invitational will give them a tough test against Notre Dame in the second round, once they get past LSU. The Wolverines will fall to the Irish, but take third-place with a win the following day. The trip to face UNC will be a good learning experience, but I don’t see them pulling out a win. They can redeem themselves by taking out a ranked UCLA squad at home, but that will be followed with their third loss against Texas next time out.
With the Big Ten Tournament moved up, Michigan has two Big Ten games at the beginning of December. Both Indiana and Ohio State underwent coaching changes this past off-season, so Michigan could get off to a good start in Big Ten play against them. The Wolverines will be 6-3 halfway through the Big Ten slate, which is good considering their next five games are against likely tournament teams. Three of those are on the road, and getting a win in one of them is critical. A strong finish, like the past season, should set them up well for the Big Ten Tournament.
The Big Ten Tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden this year and will be a week earlier than normal, starting Feb 28. As a 5 seed, the Wolverines will take care of the 12 seed they play before a mini-upset of the 4th ranked Boilermakers of Purdue. That sets up a date with a Michigan State team that dispatches Michigan on their way to the tournament title.
For the eighth time in eleven seasons, John Beilein will hear his Wolverines’ names called on Selection Sunday. Michigan will earn an 8 seed in the tournament (lack of road wins keeping them from much higher), where they will take care of the 9 seed they face. Moe Wagner goes off in their second-round game against Kansas, but the Wolverines ultimately fall short against the #1 seed.
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