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Southern Utah vs. Michigan Basketball Preview: How will this team respond?

The Wolverines have a lot to prove and not a ton of time.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Nebraska Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

No one is fooled anymore — this team has a lot of questions to answer. The Michigan Wolverines came into the season with lofty expectations, which now seem completely unwarranted. There is a ton of raw talent all across the roster, but it takes more than a flashy recruiting class to earn wins, especially in November and December.

The Wolverines split their early Big Ten games and now are set to finish out their final three non-conference contests. UCF looks like the toughest of the bunch, but Southern Utah is not a pushover, coming in as Kenpom’s No. 125 team. The Thunderbirds (sick name) have only faced one Power Six team, losing in overtime to Cal. They have won six straight since then though, and another subpar effort from Michigan could easily result in an upset.

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (7-3) vs. Michigan Wolverines (6-4)

Date & Time: Saturday, Dec. 18, 7:00 p.m. ET
Television/Streaming: BTN
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: MICH -14.5, O/U 143.5

A December contest on the Big Ten Network, the focus will mainly be on Michigan and its ability to improve rather than the visitors. The biggest challenge so far has been turnovers on both ends, with the Wolverines consistently throwing the ball away despite not giving up many steals due to pure sloppiness and miscommunication. On the other end, few teams are worse at collecting turnovers from their opponents, leading to more shot opportunities for the other offense.

The good news is there seems to be a clear path forward for the maize and blue. Starting to fix the turnovers will lead to better possessions, and this team can score when it actually gets a shot off. Defensively, there are still too many lapses and breakdowns, but seasoning should help improve this as the year goes on. The Thunderbirds and not particularly deadly on either end, so a fundamentally sound game from the Wolverines is all it takes.

Matchup Highlights

Michigan needs to find an identity on offense, which seems like it can be built around the bigs. Hunter Dickinson came back to school to show the NBA that he can expand his game, and the next step is impacting every single part of the offense. DeVante Jones has been a polarizing player, but a solid 14 points against Minnesota was a season high. Making him a reliable part of the offense is crucial, and this could be a good chance for him to continue that.

Southern Utah has abysmal assist numbers, so the Wolverines will need to play some solid defense against isolation. Guard John Knight is the dominant threat, posting a 58.7 eFG rate on 28.7 percent usage, with essentially everything coming from inside the arc and at the rim. Michigan has the better players and better team here, but another poor defensive effort will open up the door for problems to continue.