|Who: Michigan (7-2) vs. North Carolina Central (4-4)|
|Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
|When: Tuesday, December 13th, 7pm|
|Radio: MGoBlue / WWWW (102.9 FM)|
Michigan’s first nine games have provided a bit of excitement, some disappointment, and more than few question marks. The one thing that the games haven’t provided is any sort of clarity. It’s easy to make assumptions with conviction before the season… until the games start. Now, one month into the season I don’t know what to think. Resumes aren’t long enough, strength of schedule isn’t equal, there simply isn’t enough data to make complete predictions. Add the seventh youngest team in Division I to that equation and it’s hard to have a clue what Michigan team you will see on any given night.
Tonight, we’ll roll the dice again as Michigan hosts the North Carolina Central Eagles. North Carolina Central last visited Ann Arbor two years ago in just their second season in Division I. The Eagles have already won as many games this year, four, as they did during that entire season. Unfortunately, only one of their four wins this year was over a fellow Division I opponent. Central has been outscored by an average of 14 points per game in their four losses against Division I programs and their average KenPom ranking over the last four years is a lowly 328.
Given their lack of success in the win column, it should come as no surprise that the Eagles don’t excel statistically in many categories. Their offense is brutal, ranked 312th by Pomeroy as they fall in the bottom of the barrel in turnovers, offensive rebounding, and getting to the line. Defensively they are a little stronger, ranked 231st, mostly thanks to holding opponents to just 26% three point shooting. Their Achilles heel on defense is their continued inability to rebound the basketball as opponents grab 43% of their missed shots.
CJ Wilkerson, Landon Clement, and Justin Leemow (Source: NCCU Athletics)
The Eagles do have a couple guys that can play, specifically in the backcourt. 6-foot-3 senior guard CJ Wilkerson is a wired scorer that can score inside (61%) and out (41%) and averages just under 18 points per game. You aren’t going to see Wilkerson pass much, when he has the ball he’s probably going to shoot, get to the free throw line, or turn it over. 6-foot-2 junior Landon Clement is more of your prototypical three point shooter. He’s already attempted 73 three pointers and has connected at a 41% clip. The guy distributing the ball is 6-foot-1 Justin Leemow, who assists 42% of his team’s made field goals when he’s on the floor but still turns the ball over far too often.
Down low, 6-foot-7 junior Nick Chasten (12 points and 8 rebounds), 6-foot-8 sophomores Dijon Manns (5 points, 3 rebounds) and David Best (5 points, 5 rebounds) provide the bulk of the production. Beyond that six man rotation, North Carolina Central won’t go far down the bench as no other player has even played in every game for the Eagles.
Source: NCCU Eagles
North Carolina Central’s trip to Ann Arbor wasn’t the smoothest. After flight delays, cancellations, and missed connections, the total travel time for Eagle’s trip from Colorado was over 22 hours as they arrived around 1am on Monday. It’s safe to say they might be a little groggy, although they had all of Monday to recover.
On paper, this is obviously a game that Michigan should win relatively easily. Pomeroy likes Michigan by a score of 71-51 and gives Michigan at 98% chance at victory. However, as we have seen versus Concordia, lackluster effort and execution can equalize any game and it would be nice to see Michigan come out and put a bad team away early and emphatically. I’ll take Michigan 75, North Carolina Central 50.