What to watch for: Northern Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan will make its debut appearance in the newly renovated Crisler Center tonight in an exhibition clash with Northern Michigan (7 p.m., BTN.com). The Wolverines should be able to top Northern Michigan, who finished last in the GLIAC North last season with a 9-17 record overall, with relative ease. Then again, last year’s Michigan squad only topped Wayne State by eight points, 47-39, in exhibition play. We’ll spare an entire preview of the Wildcats but here are six things to watch for when Michigan takes the floor this evening.

Additional Preview Content: Beilein video & quotes, Tim Hardaway Jr. video & quotes

Burke suspension provides new opportunities

Trey Burke is suspended for Michigan’s opener which will provide roughly 30 minutes of additional playing time for John Beilein to distribute among players that might not originally be in the rotation. Spike Albrecht is the immediate beneficiary, he’s in line to start and will have every opportunity to demonstrate his abilities in his debut. Beilein has praised Michigan’s point guard for being smart with the ball and taking charges. “He’s very clever and he has great vision,” Beilein explained. “He makes some plays that make us smile.”

Burke’s absence should also prove an opportunity for some of Michigan’s other guards to step up. Eso Akunne has provided back-up point guard minutes in the past while Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and others are likely to see increased ball handling responsibilities as well.

The Fresh Five

Mitch McGary committed to Michigan 363 days ago, tonight he finally makes his debut. McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht are one of the most ballyhooed freshmen classes in recent Wolverine history and they’ll finally make their debut. All eyes will be watching the freshmen from Robinson’s first alley-oop to Stauskas’s first three pointer and McGary’s first emphatic throwdown.

Beilein noted that expects the freshmen “to be freshman” in their debuts but there will be a lot of anxious eyes watching. No more recruiting videos, rankings or scouting reports, Michigan’s newcomers are finally putting on the uniform and stepping on the floor.

Will emphasis on rebounding be noticeable from day 1?

We’ve heard about it all summer: this is the Michigan team that can finally rebound. The additional size, athleticism and length on this year’s Wolverine roster is meant to eradicate the Achilles’ heel of the John Beilein’s previous teams. Sure, it’s just Northern Michigan but a year ago, Michigan was outrebounded by Wayne State in its exhibition win. An decisive rebounding edge on both backboards would go a long way toward proving that the change in mentality and ability is meaningful.

Michigan only rebounded 40 percent or more of its misses in four games last season and if the Wolverines can put forward that sort of performance, it would be an encouraging first step. As John Beilein said at Michigan’s Media Day, sometimes “it is okay to score off an offensive rebound”.

Three Point Shooting

A couple early hot shooting performances in exhibition won’t mean much of anything in the grand scope of the season but pay attention to the quality and distribution of looks that Michigan is getting. Is Michigan’s offense predicated around attacking the basket or does it revert into the three point heavy attack traditional under Beilein?

A year ago, Michigan attempted 44.2% of its field goals from three point range. Use that as a barometer to gauge the Wolverine offense while tracking 3PA/FGA. The other stylistic stat to follow is FTA/FGA, does a more aggressive Wolverine offense net more free throw attempts than we’ve seen in recent years? It’s probably best to reserve any judgment on tempo given that Michigan will be counting on their backup point guard to set things up throughout the night.

Caris LeVert: Rotation or redshirt?

John Beilein hopes to get Caris LeVert 10 to 20 minutes in his first career game. All reports are that LeVert has surpassed expectations throughout early practices. He’s skinny, and could use an opportunity to add muscle, but could he make an impact this season? If he puts together a couple strong exhibition performances, it’s a real possibility that he could play meaningful minutes in the backcourt if he impresses early.

Michigan 5792012-01-21

Two post rotations

Pay close attention to the lineup combinations on the floor. We know Albrecht, Hardaway, Robinson and Morgan are in the starting line up but that doesn’t provide a dead tell on situational positions either way. Does Beilein add another wing guard or a big man to that lineup?

As the game plays out, play close attention to the combinations on the floor. What bigs play together? How much time does Robinson play at the four? Which post players look most comfortable – on both ends – while playing the four position. Jordan Morgan has been playing significant time at the four spot and discussed the intricacies of playing perimeter defense at Big Ten Media Day, how will he look further from the hoop?

Jon Horford will sit the opener while recovering from a knee injury while Mitch McGary will play but may be limited. Those injuries might limit just how much two post offense we see but the game should provide a good first taste.

Bonus! How to watch?

Tonight’s game will be broadcast through the Big Ten Digital Network. The cheapest way for Michigan fans to access this content (which will broadcast Michigan’s games against Northern Michigan (ex.), Saginaw Valley St. (ex.) and Slippery Rock) is to subscribe to MGoBlueTV on a monthly basis. That package costs $9.95 and will include Michigan content only. If you are interested in watching games from other schools, the Big Ten Network sells a monthly $14.95 package. Subscriptions can be purchased here.

  • Chabvis

    Do you know if you can watch full game replays using either the MGoBlueTV or Big Ten Network online services?

    I’m not going to be able to watch live unfortunately.

    • There will be a replay Monday at 4 p.m. on BTN (the actual TV channel). I’m not sure about archived games on the digital services.

    • David

      This game is listed on BTN TV broadcast schedule Monday at 4 PM

  • mountain52

    Will the MGoBlueTV package that costs $9.95 a month show all Michigan games that are broadcast on the Big 10 Network?

  • wesssamons

    any place to listen to the game for free??

  • Mr_Sledge

    At what point do players burn their opportunity to redshirt? I honestly hope that Caris redshirts this year and takes the time to gain strength and develop his skills. With all these potential pros in McGary, THJ, GRIII, Burke, I think it’s important that we start planning for the future.

    • None of the coaches care about the future. :)

    • Adam

      With basketball redshirting is such a non-issue. Usually the only players who get redshirted are players who are injured, or guys who likely will never be much more than a role player (i.e. Jordan Morgan on the injury, Blake McLimans on the role player, and Max Biefeldt who is a combination of the two – knee tendinitis and likely role player).

      If you are not good enough to even log a few minutes here and there as a freshman to help the team, you likely will never be a huge contributor. Sure you can play a role to help the team down the line, but the real impact players play right away. I think Caris will be good enough to log a few minutes this year and therefore he should not be redshirted. Caris I think has big potential.

      I really cannot think of many top players for any schools that were redshirted. It just doesn’t happen in basketball so football fans need to get that thought out of their head. Most high school football players are not big and strong enough to play Division 1 college football as a freshman. Basketball size and strength helps, but it is not nearly as important as talent. Talent trumps all in basketball so if Caris is one of the 9 or 10 most talented guys on the team he should not be redshirting.

      • UM Hoops Fan

        Wiscy redshirts people – Butch, Marshall, Uthoff come to mind.

        Generally, I agree with you with respect to “top players,” although I think there are situations where a player could be an important contributor in his fifth year even if he couldn’t provide much more than a few relatively useless minutes in spot duty as a freshman.

        • Adam

          Yeah but in that case is the team better off with the 5th year of that player or having the scholarship to use on a recruit? Personally I’d usually rather use the scholarship on a talented recruit than an upper classman role player who is in his fifth year. Basketball scholarships are so valuable that you really need to use them all in the best way possible.

          I remember the Butch situation. His was weird because he voluntarily wanted to redshirt. He came into school specifically wanting to redshirt which is unheard of for a guy who was such a big time recruit.

  • Kevin

    any idea if the game is likely to be uploaded to mgovideo.com? I won’t be able to watch it live and I don’t live in the US so I don’t get BTN

  • CB

    what about where it says “watch live” on mgoblue.com?

    • That’s going to take you to sign up for MGoBlueTV I believe.

  • FrenchGoBlue

    Also watching this overseas, I would expect to be able to watch the game archived (if you go on Mgoblue video you can see archived games like soccer, so no reason

  • mikey_mac

    I know we’re desperate for takeaways, but it’s hard to expect ANY team stats (3PA/FGA, FTA/FGA, OR%) to be meaningful when our highest usage player won’t be suiting up …

    • Probably fair… Will still be interesting to watch. For example, Trey wouldn’t have much of any impact on rebounding either way I’d venture.

      • Bluturns2gray

        Speaking of Trey Burke,having him back in Ann Arbor is nice.I hope his heart is here also.I can’t remember Beilein handing out many suspensions Manny Harris and Trey twice.This is certainly not a sign of a good team leader.

        • Mattski

          At least don’t sweat it until you find out it’s sweatable, if you know what I mean.

  • Mattski

    Did I dream someone had posted that the game would be live streamed somewhere?

    • Best bet is to bite the bullet on BTN.com package. $10 gets you three games. Could be a lot worse.