And we’re off. Michigan welcomes Northern Michigan to Crisler Arena to tip off the 2009-2010 season. The Wildcats are a Division 2 team so while this game counts, it won’t affect Michigan’s RPI (Beilein makes a good point that typical patsies have a negative effect on RPI so this might be an advantage).
I want to thank Joe from Inside NMU Athletics who helped me preview the game by answering a few questions via e-mail. I answered a few questions for him as well which should be up sometime today. Inside NMU Athletics also has a full preview of the Wildcats’ upcoming season.
Northern is a lower tier GLIAC team that finished last in the GLIAC North with a 11-16 (6-16) record last year so they shouldn’t provide too much of a challenge.
There are some reasons to be optimistic about the Wildcats. First, they return the GLIAC freshman of the year, Raymont McElroy. McElroy, the point guard, averaged 13 points and 3 assists per game while shooting 42% from three point range. Second, they have a senior laden team. NMU starts three seniors and a junior alongside McElroy. Obviously experience isn’t worth all that much without talent but it helps nonetheless.
Marc Renelique, Jared Benson, and Raymont McElroy
Marc Renelique is the guy to watch from three point range. The senior transferred from Illinois-Chicago and has no fear to let three point attempts fly (STAT), last year he hit 5 out of 10 three pointers for 24 points versus Michigan State. Northern also has a surprising amount of size inside for a Division 2 team. Starting center Jared Benson is listed at 6-foot-10 and backups Mylan Murphy and Eric Hawley are both 6-foot-9.
The Wildcats’ tempo free profile is lackluster. They are solid yet unspectacular at shooting and getting to the line. The one strength of their offense seems to be their ability to take care of the ball, which makes sense considering they have a very experienced team.
Their defense doesn’t appear to do anything exceptionally well either. They are a strong defensive rebounding team but they give up far too many free throws. Defensively the Wildcats run a lot of 2-3 zone, which explains their lack of turnover creation but seems odd for the number of free throws they allow. Opponents shot 35% from three point range against NMU last year and that’s certainly a good sign for the Wolverines, who will take plenty of three point shots.
This one counts, so you will probably see the rotation tightened up a little bit for Michigan. It will be interesting to see how the minutes shake out in the backcourt. I am skeptical that Northern has anyone that can guard, or even contain, Manny Harris so he should be poised to have a big game. I’d also like to see DeShawn Sims get off to a hot start and put together a complete game.
Leave your predictions, thoughts, and in-game discussion below in the comments. Tickets are available so feel free to make your way to Crisler to get your mind off of a certain early afternoon football game.