2011-12 Michigan Wolverines: The Early Going

The Michigan Wolverines flirted with disaster last season, finally coming alive down the stretch to make the NCAA Tournament. While they proved unable to upset Ohio State, Purdue or Wisconsin, the Wolverines put together two solid games against their rivals, the Michigan St. Spartans, and swept their hated rivals. Michigan's sweep was stunning, in light of John Beilein' s previously winless record against MSU.

With the dynamic scoring presences of Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan, and Darius Morris, the Wolverines had a solid trio of players to work with in 2010-11. They remained extremely competitive with top teams; the Wolverines nearly knocked off a top-10 Syracuse Orange team, then forced overtime against a Kansas team that fairly rolled through the Big 12. The only blowout loss they suffered to a ranked opponent in conference play was at the hands of Purdue (they lost by 23 points in Mackey Arena), with the Wolverines coming within 4 points of then-undefeated Ohio State and nearly knocking off Wisconsin in Crisler Arena.

But Darius Morris is no longer wearing a Michigan jersey, electing instead to opt for the NBA Draft, where he was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. But the players that return from last year bring experience against the top teams, and include some of the more talented players in the conference. Last year's team had no seniors, but this year's team has Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. Both players will have to supplement the consistent Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan for the Wolverines to be successful this season.

Date Opponent / Event Location Time / Result
Fri., Nov. 4 vs. Wayne State ex TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Nov. 11 vs. Ferris State TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Mon., Nov. 14 vs. Towson (1) TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 8:30 p.m. ET
Thu., Nov. 17 vs. Western Illinois TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 8:30 p.m. ET
EA Sports Maui Invitational
Mon., Nov. 21 vs. Memphis TV Lahaina, Hawaii 10:00 a.m. HT
Tue., Nov. 22 Duke or Tennessee TV Lahaina, Hawaii TBA
Wed., Nov. 23 TBD TV Lahaina, Hawaii TBA
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Tue., Nov. 29 at Virginia TV Charlottesville, Va. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Dec. 3 vs. Iowa State TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 12:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Dec. 10 vs. Oakland TV Auburn Hills, Mich. TBA
Tue., Dec. 13 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Dec. 17 vs. Alabama A&M TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 12:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Dec. 22 vs. Bradley TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 6:30 p.m. ET
Thu., Dec. 29 vs. Penn State * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 7:30 p.m. ET
Sun., Jan. 1 vs. Minnesota * TV Ann Arbor, Mich. 4:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Jan. 5 at Indiana * TV Bloomington, Ind. 9:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Jan. 8 vs. Wisconsin * TV Ann Arbor, Mich.

TBA

Michigan's schedule kicks off with an exhibition game against Wayne State, after which the Wolverines take on Ferris State, Towson, and Western Illinois in Ann Arbor. After four home games, the Wolverines hit the road to paradise, taking on Memphis in the opening round of the Maui Invitational Tournament. The Tigers exited the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but they could easily threaten to hand Michigan its first loss of the year.

After finishing with the Memphis Tigers, the Wolverines will take on either Duke (who they were seconds away from upsetting in the NCAA Tournament) or Tennessee. The Duke Blue Devils lost a LOT last year with the early departure of Kyrie Erving and graduations of Kyle Singler and Nolan Thomas, though, meaning that Michigan could give Coach K and company a wild battle in Hawaii. Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl after evidence of NCAA violations hit the forefront and the NCAA essentially banned Pearl. In addition, the Volunteers had freshman F Tobias Harris depart for the NBA after just a season (He was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks).

Depending on their results against Memphis and Duke/Tennessee, Michigan's final opponent in Lahaina remains unknown. After returning from Hawaii, the Wolverines take on the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville. Virginia put up a pretty poor record last season (7-9 in ACC play, and 16-15 overall), but still managed to knock off previously unbeaten Minnesota in Minneapolis last year. While Michigan should win, this is not a given, especially on the road. The Wolverines then face the Iowa St. Cyclones in Ann Arbor, head to The Palace at Auburn Hills to take on the Oakland Grizzlies, and return home to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The Wolverines' final nonconference games are all tune-ups against fairly unimpressive competition; they face Alabama A&M and Bradley; Alabama A&M was 13-15 last year with a 10-8 record in SWAC play, while Bradley was dead last in The Missouri Valley Conference with a 4-14 record in MVC play and a 12-20 overall record.

Michigan kicks off Big Ten play with winnable games against Penn State and Minnesota. Michigan swept Penn State last season, and will only play Minnesota once. Almost unfortunately for Michigan, the Minnesota game is in Ann Arbor; the Wolverines have won each of their last three trips to Williams Arena in Minneapolis and have managed to be a consistent needle in Tubby Smith's side.

Michigan's schedule then instantly hits a road bump with a trip to Indiana, which knocked them out 80-61 last season in Bloomington, and a home game against Wisconsin, which used a last-second shot by Josh Gasser to stave off the upset and hand Michigan a devastating defeat. Indiana showed some signs of improvement, but health knocked out their leading scorers. With the commitment of Cody Zeller and continued maturation under Tom Crean, IU should show significant progress. Wisconsin is always a tough out, especially for Michigan; the Badgers won every game in Crisler Arena since 2006.

Michigan's full schedule can be found here, at MGoBlue.

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