Hoops Preview: Michigan vs. Houston Baptist

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolverines return to the Crisler Center on Saturday to face 3-5 Houston Baptist.

Game: Houston Baptist (3-5) at Michigan (5-3)

Date: Saturday, December 7

Time: 12 ET

Location: Crisler Center--Ann Arbor, MI

TV: BTN

After playing five of their last six games away from the friendly confines of the Crisler Center, the Michigan Wolverines return to Ann Arbor looking to rebuild some confidence on the heels of that 3-3 stretch. Losses at Duke and at Iowa State are by no means ones to scoff at (Charlotte might not even be a horrendous loss when all is said and done, especially given Michigan's injury issues in the second half of that game).

Nonetheless, while a convincing win against 3-5 Houston Baptist will do nothing to improve Michigan's resume, it is an opportunity for the Wolverines to collect themselves, especially with games against Arizona and Stanford in the coming weeks. The former will be especially big for the Wolverines, as, barring an upset against UNLV or New Mexico State, Sean Miller's Arizona squad will likely roll into Ann Arbor with a shiny No. 1 ranking.

Season so far

But, before the Wolverines tackle those foes, they'll have to take care of business tomorrow afternoon first.

The Huskies of Houston Baptist, of the Southland Conference, have limped out to a 3-5 start, with losses to Texas Tech, Texas, Wright State, Southern Miss and South Alabama.

On the positive side of the ledger, the Huskies tallied wins against Crowley's Ridge College, plus an overtime win at Army and a 2-point win at home against Rice. Unfortunately for the Huskies, Rice and Army are a combined 4-11 so far this season. So, while the Huskies do bring a two games winning streak into Ann Arbor, it isn't exactly much t write home about.

The Huskies' five losses came at an average margin of defeat of 16.8 points per game, nudged skyward by a 28-point defeat at Texas on Nov. 18.

Personnel

The Huskies are led by sophomore guard Rob Lewis,who averages 13.4 ppg. Lewis leads the Huskies in field goal attempts, but he's only connected on 41.6% of them (31.8% from three).

Tyler Russell, another 6'0'' guard, averages 11.5 ppg (he averaged 11.6 ppg two years ago and 11.4 ppg last season, so it seems like this is his sweet spot). Russell shoots it a little better from three than Lewis (33.3%).

Cody Joyce, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, averages 9.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg. As far as "big" guys go, he's probably the biggest threat on the team. The Huskies do boast a 6-foot-11 center in Ricmonds Vilde (a transfer from SMU), but he only averages 5.5 ppg. However, using that height, he naturally leads the team in rebounds (6.3 rpg).

Marcel Smith, a junior guard from Detroit, is probably the last player worth mentioning here. Smith averages 5.9 ppg and shoots 38.5% from three (albeit on 13 attempts). However, at 5-foot-6, you have to think that Smith is a pretty big defensive liability.

Game keys

Given the opponent, these will be more about Michigan than they are what Michigan needs to do relative to its opponent:

  • Start strong. The Wolverines have started slow more often than not this season, even against weak competition (tied at the half against Lowell). For the sake of progress and everyone's blood pressure, a strong start tomorrow afternoon would be a good sign.
  • Half court offense. As is always the case against weak competition, Michigan will get its fair share of runouts and transition opportunities. With that said, Michigan's half court offense has been mediocre to downright bad all season, which I suppose is to be expected when you lose shot takers and creators like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. I'm not even asking for a Hoosiers-style four pass offense, but some sort of discernible offensive rhythm would be a welcomed sight.
  • Glenn Robinson III. This is probably going to be a point of concern for the rest of the season, but if GRIII can't get his buckets against teams like Houston Baptist, well, that's bad, mmkay. He'll have opportunities to take his man off the dribble if he wants to. I'm not in the business of questioning a player's desire/motives/general want to, but, for whatever reason Robinson hasn't been as aggressive as Michigan fans would like him to be.

Outlook

Simply put, this is a bad HBU team, one that Michigan should handle with ease. However, following tough stretches like Michigan has just gone through, a letdown is always a concern.

I don't think that's in the cards, but I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan looks fairly underwhelming in the game's opening five to 10 minutes of play.

In any case, the Wolverines should win by 20-something, providing a much needed boost of confidence for a young squad trying to find its way.

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