The Michigan Wolverines (2-0) are coming off of a game that was much closer than expected on Sunday in an overtime win over still-winless Oakland University, but such is life in a sport where weird things can happen in a weird year. Still, you would rather be on the winning end of one of those efforts and improve from it. Michigan has a chance to do just that on Wednesday night at home.
Wednesday’s contest against Ball State (0-1) provides an opportunity to continue to for a deep team who is still figuring out what combinations work best. Ball State has only played a single game so far this year coming in the form of a 74-73 loss to Northern Kentucky last week.
The biggest challenge that Ball State, who ranks No. 131 in the country on KenPom, provides to Michigan in this game is fifth-year senior guard K.J. Walton, who put up 28 points in the losing effort last week. The Cardinals are expected to compete as one of the top-tier teams in the MAC this season, similar to what Michigan saw last week in its opener against Bowling Green.
In Sunday’s win over Oakland, Michigan struggled against the zone defense and had a hard time making its shots from the perimeter, so we will have to see how they improve in this area in the three days since they last took the court.
Also worth watching is the potential starting five, namely at the center position. Austin Davis has been getting the nod there as the elder statesman in the locker room, but true freshman Hunter Dickinson has been more than advertised in his first two games. Dickinson leads the Wolverines in field goal percentage through two games at 66.7 percent and is coming off of a 19 point, four rebound performance against the Golden Grizzlies on Sunday.
Dickinson is part of a trio of newcomers for Michigan that have made a big splash early on along with guards Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown. After playing critical roles in the opener, both Smith and Brown had very different, but similar nights on Sunday in that things did not quite go as planned. Smith had a hard time staying on the floor with foul trouble, while Brown was ice cold from the perimeter after a blistering first game.
While it was expected that Isaiah Livers would be one of the leaders on the team offensively, the struggles offensively through two games for Franz Wagner have been enough to at least raise an eyebrow. It is a small sample size, but look for Michigan to try and get him going after quiet performances on the score sheet through the first week of the season.
Note: We won’t be doing game threads for basketball this year, so feel free to join our Discord server to chat and connect with other MnB readers and Michigan fans.