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Eastern Michigan Eagles at Michigan Wolverines Preview: Hope springs anew

An inconsistent team looks to make it two-straight for the first time in over a month.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It felt like Sunday’s trip to Iowa was as close to a December must-win as possible, and the Michigan Wolverines successfully reminded everyone of their raw ability. This is a top-25 offense per Kenpom, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Yes, the defense is horrendous, but at least one side of the floor is working out!

While the Wolverines have missed plenty of chances for some good non-conference wins, an opportunity remains against Florida next week, and of course there will be a lot of resume games in Big Ten play. Before we get there, however, sits a matchup with the weakest team on the schedule this season: Eastern Michigan.

The Eagles sit right around the 300 mark nationally, which is terrible. Of course, everyone remembers the Central Michigan team that also ranked around here last season, so nothing can be taken for granted. Obviously, Michigan absolutely cannot let that happen again, and I will be as bold to say it will not.

Eastern has played two top-100 teams so far, losing by 39 to Butler and 43 to Florida Atlantic. With this in mind, Michigan should be winning by 20-plus on Saturday. What is more important, though, is keeping up the vibes and building on some momentum for the first time in a long while.

Eastern Michigan Eagles (5-4) at Michigan Wolverines (5-5)

Date & Time: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
TV/Streaming: BTN

Despite a 5-4 record, it has been a tough season for the Eagles. Their best win was probably against Cleveland State, which likely says enough in itself. This is a bad offense and an even worse defense, but at least the bus ride is short? Last year’s CMU embarrassment aside, this is not supposed to be a competitive contest.

If there is one way Eastern could make it uncomfortable, it is behind the arc. A 36.5-percent clip is well above-average nationally and should be concerning for a Michigan defense that is one of the worst in the country against threes. The Eagles’ three most willing shooters from deep all hit at least 35 percent of their attempts, so lackadaisical defense will be punished.

Run and fun

The Wolverines are by no means the fastest team in terms of pace, but there is no better way to get easy looks than to convert in transition. Michigan will clearly have the better athletes, and this could be a chance for the supposedly strong individual defensive pieces to use their size to force some turnovers and send it the other way.

It would be great to see Terrance Williams and Will Tschetter continuing to contribute and take advantage of a lesser opponent. This could also be a game for Tray Jackson to have a good outing, as he has yet to do a whole lot since transferring from Seton Hall. Really everyone could have a good showing on Saturday, but Michigan should not need its stars to win.