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Lipscomb at Michigan Preview: Building the vibes

The Wolverines could use another quality performance, regardless of opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic-Michigan at Pittsburgh Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Dug McDaniel era started out strong last week, with the Michigan Wolverines beginning 1-0 in Big Ten play after a big win over Minnesota. The young point guard looked like a natural, stacking the stat sheet with 15 points, seven assists, three steals, and 3-for-3 mark from deep while leading the offense to 1.22 PPP.

The Gophers may be a bad basketball team, but so are the Lipscomb Bison. The Nashville-based squad is a typical late-December opponent and was projected to finish in the middle of the Atlantic Sun this season. The Bisons did nearly upset Notre Dame on the road, but otherwise their schedule is hardly worth mentioning.

Michigan played tough (though still flawed) games against Virginia and Kentucky before absolutely crushing Minnesota. Though the Wolverines are big favorites this weekend, A fourth-straight quality outing would be meaningful ahead of Wednesday’s clash against North Carolina. Just a reminder that this one is on B1G+.

Lipscomb Bison (7-4) at Michigan Wolverines (6-3)

Date & Time: Saturday, Dec. 17, 4 p.m.
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
TV/Streaming: B1G+

Build up those reps

McDaniel entered last week with a history of being raw and wild in his sporadic minutes this season, but he looked like a much different player as the full-time starter. While some of this was surely due to the level of competition, it was extremely encouraging to see the freshman capable of running the offense.

Lipscomb’s defense ranks outside the top 200, meaning this is another chance for McDaniel to log some valuable playing time. As impressive as his scoring was — especially from three — another big assist game would be huge, whether that comes from feeding Hunter Dickinson down low or moving the ball around the perimeter.

Saturday should be another chance for the rest of the offense to get going as well. Almost everyone played well against the Gophers, including Kobe Bufkin, whose role will also increase with the absence of Jaelin Llewellyn. Bufkin tied Dickinson for the most shot attempts on the team, and expect more of the same going forward.

The one starter who struggled in Minneapolis was Terrance Williams, who has not looked right for most of the year. The junior’s job is not in jeopardy yet, but there is clearly a lack of confidence right now, especially with his jumper. The Bisons are near the bottom of the entire nation in opposing three-point percentage; no one needs to see a couple go down this weekend more than Williams.

Make them earn it

Michigan will hold the head-to-head advantage at every position this weekend, but two players to look out for are Trae Benham and Jacob Ognacevic, who both scored 19 against the Irish. Benham went 4-for-7 from deep that game and leads the Bisons in threes this season, though the team as a whole is nothing special from behind the arc.

Lipscomb has been extremely efficient on two-point shots, however, and that is where Ognacevic hurt Notre Dame, going 8-for-11 from inside the arc. The Wolverines will have to communicate well defensively and make sure to match up correctly, as Ognacevic leads the team in usage and will take the shot if given the chance.

As long as Michigan can play sound fundamentally, this should not be close. The Bisons are not terrible on offense but have not faced a good defense (though who knows what to consider the Wolverines...), and forcing them to win one-on-one battles seems like the right way to go. Early opponents were able to drive by Michigan defenders way too easily, but this is a good chance to show those issues are long gone.