Who: No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (11-0) vs. Air Force Falcons (4-6)
Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
When: Saturday, Dec. 22, 4:05 p.m. ET
Point spread: Michigan -26
Listen: Detroit: WWJ-950 AM; Ann Arbor: WTKA-1050 AM; anywhere: MGoBlue.com
Tickets: Sold out
Promotions: Santa visiting concourse (2:30-4)
Follow: Andrew Kahn
Saturday will be Air Force’s first visit to Ann Arbor, but the Falcons’ coaching staff is very familiar with Michigan. Head coach Dave Pilipovich was an assistant under Tommy Amaker at U-M from 2005 to 2007. Assistant Andrew Moore worked under Amaker from 2002 to 2007. And assistant Nate Zandt graduated from Michigan in 2006 after serving as a student assistant for five seasons.
Earlier this week, Beilein praised Pilipovich for his “class and dignity” in the weeks after Beilein was hired to replace Amaker. Beilein made it clear he was not retaining Pilipovich, but Pilipovich stayed in Ann Arbor to help Beilein with the transition.
Beilein is excited to play Air Force for another reason. “To do what they do and then be a student-athlete — those are the guys I want protecting our country,” he said. “My hat goes off to them because they’re tremendous kids, and we’re proud to play against them. I’m always thinking about the military during the national anthem. I’ll be looking at those dudes right across the way saying, ‘Much respect. This is for you.'”
The Falcons last played two weeks ago, losing 66-61 to Army. Their only game this season against a power conference school was a 93-56 home loss to Colorado. Air Force is led by its frontcourt of Ryan Swan and Lavelle Scottie, who average a combined 23 points and 11 rebounds per game. At 6-foot-7, they’re tied for the tallest players on the team.
Pilipovich deploys a deep bench — nine players average at least 14 minutes — but his team is among the worst in the country in protecting the ball. Michigan’s decisive run in its last game, a 70-62 win over Western Michigan a week ago, came when the Wolverines turned turnovers into easy baskets. There should be similar opportunities on Saturday.
These programs have met just once before, in a tournament in Portland on Dec. 29, 1965. Michigan won behind 24 points from Cazzie Russell.
Crisler may be known as the House That Cazzie Built, though the building Pilipovich and his staff will enter on Saturday is much more modern than the one he worked in.
After Saturday’s game, Michigan will not play again until Dec. 30. The Wolverines will go home for a few days — some will head to the airport right after the game — before returning to Ann Arbor on Dec. 27. Michigan will close out its nonconference schedule against Binghamton the following Sunday.