South Carolina State (1-1, 0-0) at Michigan (1-0, 0-0)
7:00 PM EST
Series Record: n/a
Last Meeting: n/a
Blog Representation: Maize N Brew
Michigan trended upwards at the right time last year, making a NCAA Tournament run and almost winning it all before falling to Louisville. Heading into 2013 the team looked a bit different without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., especially with Mitch McGary missing time due to lingering injury issues. McGary is still facing injury issues, with coach John Beilein even saying he would shut down McGary for the non-conference slate "if it came to that."
The McGary injury issues will be a key story to track for Michigan throughout the early season, especially as the team is looking relatively different with the loss of their two main backcourt stars in Burke and Hardaway. Without McGary the team takes on a different appearance, looking considerably more beatable and average outside of stud Glenn Robinson III. The lack of McGary could be vital when the Wolverine's non-conference slate toughens up later on in 2013.
Regardless of all the issues the Wolverines have faced, though, South Carolina State is still South Carolina State and this is another cupcake that Michigan should gobble up. Of course they did play atrocious in the first half versus new Division-1 squad UMass-Lowell, heading into halftime tied with only 23 points. They stepped it up in the second half outscoring UMass-Lowell 46-19 and eventually got it together.
Out of the MEAC, the Bulldogs aren't a good team. They ended up losing their opener against Marshall by 16 and followed that up with a 59 point performance in overtime against NAIA opponent St. Andrews. South Carolina State simply doesn't have the talent or bodies to compete and will be overmatched from the get go. Michigan is far too quick, far too big and far too good to even entertain the idea of an upset.
So for Michigan the game will be about working on developing the younger talent that will need to step up after the turnover from last season. The biggest issue is who will get the start at the point going down the road, with Spike Albrecht having the experience edge but Derrick Walton having the far superior athleticism and overall skill advantage. Walton had 6 points and 4 assists in the opener and also played 27 minutes compared to 12, showing that Beilein might have more faith in him. This isn't a huge surprise when you realize Albrecht is a defensive liability and his best weapon is his three point shooting, something Nik Stauskas brings plenty of to the table.
With McGary out look for the Wolverines to feed Jon Horford and help groom him into the role so that they have a backup plan if McGary's injury issues linger longer than anticipated. While Horford added 12 rebounds in 22 minutes, his 2 of 8 shooting in the opener was an issue. Someone else to keep an eye on is Caris LeVert, scoring 17 points and looking like a legitimate weapon in the backcourt. With the loss of Burke and Hardaway players like LeVert will be needed if the Wolverines want to match last seasons success.
So while Michigan played ugly in the first half of their season opener, I'd expect a much quicker start tonight. Michigan has nothing to worry about here, even without McGary, and will likely use the game to look at their younger roster members and to try to figure out how exactly to fill their backcourt.
Expect Michigan to win big in a snoozefest.