For many Michigan fans, the moment the pandemic became real was around 11:45 am on Thursday, March 12. The team had just left the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse after warming up for a second round Big Ten Tournament matchup against Rutgers when the conference canceled the game and the rest of the tournament.
Just like that, Year One under Juwan Howard was over. It was a season of notables highs — back-to-back top-10 wins on the way to a Battle 4 Atlantis title, a convincing win over No. 16 Michigan State in Ann Arbor, All-Big Ten accolades for Zavier Simpson and Franz Wagner — as well as some painful roadbumps, primarily in the form of a 4-8 stretch in December and January.
Out go Simpson and Jon Teske, and in comes a freshman class full of potential and a pair of transfers expected to make significant contributions from the start. Many are projecting Michigan in the middle of the conference, close to how the 2019-20 season ended, but it would not be surprising at all if the Wolverines end up as one of the Big Ten’s best.
Game Info & How to Watch
The pandemic has continued to impact the sporting world, and in college basketball that means a shortened non-conference slate. The Wolverines will not have to leave Ann Arbor for any of their five games before the Big Ten schedule, but that does not mean they can sleepwalk through the first few weeks.
The 2020-21 season begins with a visit from Bowling Green, a mid-tier MAC opponent. Kenpom ranks the Falcons 164th overall, which is not exactly a pushover. Michigan is clearly better on paper, but with the weird preseason and a bunch of new faces, anything can happen in the opening game.
Even with a couple starters departing, the Wolverines should be in good shape in terms of talent. Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers will be leading the charge, both with First Team All-Big Ten ceilings. Meanwhile, transfers Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown are veteran options that should see notable minutes right away.
On Wednesday the goal is obviously a win, no matter how rusty the team might look to start. If all goes well, though, it would be fun to see freshmen like Hunter Dickenson and Zeb Jackson and get a sense of their potential. This may not be the splashiest matchup, but with very few tune-ups, every non-conference minute maters this season.