Game 10: North Carolina Central at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Michigan (7-2) vs. North Carolina Central (4-4) logo_secondary[1]
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.

  • JGladch

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  • AG2

    Didn’t NCCU get Dominique Sutton from K-State as a transfer?

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      I believe so, but I don’t think he’s eligible this season.

  • gpsimms

    I’ll take Michigan by $Texas.

    The questions is, when this year’s team gets a Savannah State kind of game, do they blow it or pull it out? Or do they never even have a game like that? I’m thinking the latter. Not to put more hype on Darius, but I’m seriously starting to think a top-flight point guard was the only thing the team was missing last year. We have one now, and I can’t see us losing to a *bad* team, or even being close, the level his game is at right now.

    • ScottGoBlue

      D-Mo is playing great this year, but early successes are clouding your memory. A PG wasn’t the only thing we were missing last year. How about a second legitimate front court player next to Deshawn Sims? How about team chemistry? How about Manny Harris giving more consistent effort? Last year’s squad needed a lot …

      This year’s squad, though, is looking good. Hard to predict who’s gonna come through for us in a given matchup, but so far someone has risen to the challenge nearly every game. This bodes well for our future. I looked again at the conference schedule and I see 8 winnable games. But that all depends on the freshmen covering for one another during their respective slumps. It’s gonna be fun to watch these guys.

      • gpsimms

        On the other hand, I think you are devaluing the importance of a point guard. How much of Manny’s “inconsistnet effort” is due to the fact Novak and Douglass shot 30% from 3? How much of that was due to no pg?

        How much more efficient could Manny have been if he had not been 100% of the back court offense? If Manny had to handle the ball less, is it possible he becomes more efficient? I think it’s just about guaranteed.

        Chemistry is one thing. But give me talent. Tell me this year’s team would not be ridiculous is Manny and Deshawn were still on it.

  • GregGoBlue

    This game is on BTN, but the Oakland game is on ESPN3?! C’mon!

  • Polisci

    I like how you (Dylan) state the Pomeroy prediction and then give us reason to be worried about a closer game and then go ahead and predict a bigger victory. That made me laugh.

    I’m with you. Michigan 82-58.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Hedging my bets. ;-)

  • mgocanada

    First off, Dijon is an amazing first name for a player.
    Second, anybody streaming this (as someone kindly did for the UTEP and Clemson games), for those of us who aren’t in the US and/or don’t have the dough to get the Legends/Leaders Network?
    Thirdly, Michigan 90-55. JB won’t let another Concordia happen, Hardaway and Horford have emerged, and Darius has basically become our John Wall (mediocre jump shot included), even though we’re too modest to admit it! Go BLUE!

    • Better we struggle tonight, Beilein kicks butts in practice, and we beat Oakland. I prefer that pattern. :)

  • It would be great if Smotz can get something going tonight and get back on track. That could be huge, we are going to need him to take his turn having the hot hand.

    • Champswest

      That is exactly what I was thinking. Hardaway has emerged from his slump and Vogrich is starting to come around. Now if Smotrycz can find his confidence and get his game turned around, we could be awsome. However, he seems really down and confused (based on his on-court demeanor) so, I suspect that it may take him awhile longer.

  • Section13Row15

    I think we’ll play a bit uninspired tonight (probably won’t be a large crowd there) but it won’t matter with this opponent. I’m betting we surprise some people and beat Oakland by 9.

    • mgocanada

      I think you’re right. Oakland was pummelled by Purdue and WVU, and they struggled to pull out an OT victory against something called “Austin Peay.” And giving an overrated Sparty a tough time is basically the “in” thing to do this season (even though Chaminade is, admittedly, one of the best teams on the Island of Maui). We’ll give State a hard time too. But in all seriousness, as long as we can contain that beast Benson and hit a few threes, we’ll be OK… hopefully Morgan and Horford are up to the task.

  • georgeesq.

    I predict a 15 point win.

  • sven

    We aren’t gonna have much of a problem with these chumps or Oakland. Sparty did us a favor by playing Oakland so close.

  • Kenny

    exactly how many D-I teams are younger than us? I heard that we rank the third youngest, but now here I read 7th?

    when will these NCC kids go back to their classroom? don’t they have to study for their finals? that’s why I am all for play more local teams, EMU, CMU, WMU, Detroit, Toledo, Dayton, ND, Valparaiso, Butler no shortage of them. It make sense to play one or two long distance teams each year, but they should be worthy opponents like Kansas, UConn, Duke, etc.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Useful link for experience:
      Explanation for this ranking:
      Uses eligibility class weighted by minutes played. A freshman has no years experience, a sophomore has one year experience, etc.

    • Kainkitizen

      I agree. Keep the TV money local especially in today’s economy. Lets Duke and North Carolina take care of the Carolina region.

      • mgocanada

        For some reason, I always love watching UM playing Detroit-Mercy and other Horizon schools, but something about the mid-American conference is a vague turn-off for me (probably has to do with the quality of their football teams. Although the possibility of beating the pants of Trey and Pop Zeigler does hold a certain appeal). I kinda like playing those no-name Carolina teams, and I’m not overly concerned if a few kids on obscure D-1 teams don’t ace their finals, although we would probably do better for ourselves to take on the less garbage schools like College of Charleston and Coastal. Oh and I wouldn’t mind another shot at those Tar Heels, too. But I should check the NCCU box score before I put my foot even deeper into my mouth.

  • Grey

    are there gna be any streams (Even though i doubt it)

  • drae

    Holy crap this team can not hit the broad side of a barn right now!!!