On Monday afternoon, Michigan officially released its non-conference portion of the schedule for the 2017-18 season. With every Power 5 non-conference schedule, there are some terrific games and some “buy” games, where programs like Michigan will pay smaller schools upwards of six figures to bolster their win column. We break down the highs and lows from the schedule:
Highs: The most glaring part of the schedule is the number of brand names Michigan is playing in 2017. John Beilein has crafted this schedule with a lot of heavy hitters, with North Carolina and UCLA as the two that stick out. UNC was the national champion last year and return a decent chunk of their roster, including point guard standout Joel Berry II and cult hero Luke Maye. The Bruins don’t have Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, but they bring back Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh and Gyorgy Goloman along with six newcomers including LiAngelo Ball.
The Wolverines also travel to Austin, Texas to faces the Longhorns and star recruit Mohamed Bamba who also included Michigan in his top four. They’d love nothing more than a quality road victory, and Shaka Smart’s team is looking for revenge after a 53-50 loss in Ann Arbor. The other major standout is the Maui Invitational, which includes six other major conference teams and Chaminade that each play three games in Hawaii. Michigan could be matched up with California, LSU, Marquette, Notre Dame, VCU or Wichita State. The Wolverines have played a few of these teams in recent years, including a victory over the Rams and a loss to the Fighting Irish in the NCAA Tournament.
Lows: While the schedule has some star power, it definitely also lacks at the bottom. Michigan’s first three games are all against teams that will struggle mightily. North Florida went 15-19 last season, Central Michigan lost their top two scorers including Marcus Keene who led the country in scoring, and Southern Mississippi went 9-22 last year. UC Riverside could be a good challenge out of the Big West, but it’s a long trip to play one game in Ann Arbor similar to UCLA.
Alabama A&M and Jacksonville will both be pretty dreadful, but I actually love Michigan playing Detroit at Little Caesar’s Arena. The Titans are coached by former Michigan assistant Bacari Alexander and will feature former Michigan forward Kam Chatman as probably their best player next season, and the game is part of a doubleheader with Michigan-based schools (Michigan State vs. Oakland is the other game).
Overall, I think Michigan fans should be pleased with the schedule. I’d love to have seen a few more teams in the 100-200 RPI range, as a lot of the teams coming to Ann Arbor will hover around the 250-300 RPI range all season and not help the Wolverines with much of a resume boost. This team will have to be up to the challenge early, as the Wolverines have three games before heading to Maui and then embark on the back-to-back-to-back of North Carolina, Texas and UCLA one week later. Most importantly, there are chances to improve the resume, and Michigan should probably be favored in most of their games except in Chapel Hill.