The 3-0 start for the Michigan Wolverines is a distant memory, as the team has lost five of the past six games, most coming down to the wire. This is a painful encore from last year’s struggles, and while the calendar still says December, the expectations for this season have basically bottomed out.
Unfortunately the only approach from here is just to fight through this. Transfers always take some time to adjust, and Dug McDaniel and Tarris Reed are still relatively early in their careers. KenPom has this team outside the top 50, and there really is nothing to indicate that ranking is unfair.
Michigan next travels to face the Iowa Hawkeyes, which is a dangerous proposition. While the Iowa defense is — quite the opposite to football — a complete afterthought, the offense remains an electric top-20 unit nationally. For a struggling defense like that of the Wolverines, disaster is all but certain.
Road contests are always tough, but recent performance suggests this one should stay relatively close. The Hawkeyes are definitely going to score, but will give up plenty too. Michigan will just need to find a way to actually come away with a victory in an expectedly close contest, which has seemed virtually impossible over the past 12 months.
Michigan Wolverines (4-5, 0-1) at Iowa Hawkeyes (5-4, 0-1)
Date & Time: Sunday, Dec. 10, 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA
The Hawkeyes certainly have a scary offense, but there is a question if their defense can really hold up. Iowa is just 1-4 against top-100 opponents, giving up over 1.20 PPP to Creighton, Purdue, and Iowa State while looking like far from a juggernaut on the other end. Michigan might not be elite itself, but this shows Iowa does most of its damage against lower competition.
Still, the Wolverines must stay alert. Iowa plays fast on offense and does not shoot a ton of threes. Even without impressive percentages, this team is productive and gets its looks. For Michigan to win, it must be physical on both ends and take advantage of a defense that will offer plenty of opportunities for the visitors.
Michigan does not need superstars right now, just solid contributors. Olivier Nkamhoua is no longer looking like a potential star, and McDaniel is still experiencing growing pains. Maybe Terrance Williams or Will Tschetter can evolve into something more than role players, but at least they are performing better than last season.
Really, the Wolverines need Nimari Burnett and Tray Jackson to show they were worth the addition. Along with Nkamhoua, it has been a bumpy first month in Ann Arbor, and without consistent contributions from them, there is just too big of a gap for this roster to overcome. Reed also has disappointed, looking like a walking turnover machine against Indiana, but really just about everyone needs to get back to every adequate.