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Long Beach State at Michigan Wolverines Preview: Message received

The bar for this season has been dramatically raised after the first three games.

Michigan v St. John’s

Every year, preseason projections miss on some teams, and the 2023-24 Michigan Wolverines appear to be one of them. It has only been three games, but after a very impressive blowout win on the road against St. John’s, it is fair to reset how this team should be viewed and what the expectations should be going forward.

The answer will come quickly with (likely) six straight games upcoming against Power Six competition, starting next week in the Bahamas. There are going to be some bumps for a team full of transfers, but right now this is a borderline top-20 squad per Kenpom and it feels like this team could absolutely stay near that range all year.

If Michigan takes care of business on Friday night, it has a good chance to head to the Battle 4 Atlantis as a ranked team. Long Beach State should not be too much of a challenge, but does sit significantly ahead of UNC Asheville and Youngstown State in the advanced metrics, so this is not worth completely ignoring.

Still, no offense to Beach, but all of the focus will continue to be on the Wolverines and if they can continue their hot start. Perhaps the most encouraging part is the balance, with Dug McDaniel, Olivier Nkamhoua, and Nimari Burnett all stepping up in various moments to carry the team forward. Friday is another opportunity for this roster to continue growing in chemistry and sharing the workload.

Long Beach State Beach (1-2) at Michigan Wolverines (3-0)

Date & Time: Friday, Nov. 17, 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
TV/Streaming: B1G+

The Beach are a balanced team, sitting in the 100-150th range in both adjusted offense and defense. It has been an interesting opening stretch, taking down a Power Six team in DePaul, though one that traditionally sits near the bottom of the Big East, and losing by 12 to a San Diego State team that might not be too off from Michigan in terms of overall quality, though is more defensive-oriented.

There are no huge outliers in the early-season numbers for the Beach. The defense was not too impressive against SDSU, allowing 1.12 PPP to a team that is not expected to be a juggernaut on offense. The visitors do return a lot of talent, in addition to Stanford transfer Isa Silva coming in to help out at point guard; Silva has gotten off to a very modest start, however.

Secondary questions

The massive unknown heading into the season was how Michigan was going to fill in the void left by its top three scorers. In my head, it made sense that the Wolverines would cobble together points from anywhere possible and focus primarily on a strong defense. Through three games, that really does not see to be the case, as the defense has been decent but not great, while there seems to be a clear top two options on offense.

Michigan now has the luxury of figuring out the next mysteries, which primarily revolve around depth. The Wolverines are going to need Jaelin Llewellyn back soon and for George Washington III to develop into a usable rotation piece, as McDaniel cannot realistically play every single minute. Will Tschetter looks dramatically improved, and hopefully Tray Jackson can work out as well, but there needs to be some additional options at the 4 behind Nkamhoua. Friday is a good time to deploy some heavy rotation, especially with the back-to-back-to-back games next week.