Who: No. 5 Michigan Wolverines (10-0) vs. Western Michigan (5-4)
Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
When: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2:00 p.m. ET
Point spread: Michigan -25
Listen: Detroit: WWJ-950 AM; Ann Arbor: WTKA-1050 AM; anywhere: MGoBlue.com
Tickets: Sold out
Promotions: Education Day; halftime show: Simon Sez
Follow: Andrew Kahn
Michigan starts a three-game stretch against non-major conference teams when Western Michigan visits Crisler Center on Saturday.
With all three opponents ranking outside the top-230 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, it could be a time for John Beilein to see what some of his lesser-used players can do.
“In November, the primary object was to get our starters starters’ minutes so their bodies were ready for it,” Beilein said Friday. “Now if you ever get a comfortable lead — and I hope we do somewhere in these next three games — you might be more apt to get them in there because (starter Ignas Brazdeikis) is now used to playing 32 minutes. If he plays 25, big deal.
“There may be an opportunity (for bench players). But if they haven’t earned it in practice, they’re not getting in there.”
None of this is to suggest Michigan is taking the visitors from Kalamazoo lightly. Steve Hawkins is in his 16th year as head coach of the Broncos. His team was decimated by injuries last season and finished 17-15 overall, 9-9 in the MAC, and got bounced in the first round of the conference tournament.
This season, the Broncos beat Detroit and Oakland while losing to the likes of Nicholls State and USC Upstate. Their two games against major competition — Mississippi and Cincinnati — resulted in 26-point losses.
You don’t see too many 7-foot battles at the college level, but Michigan’s Jon Teske (7-foot-1) will be matched up with senior 7-footer Seth Dugan, who leads Western with 17.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Beilein said Michigan recruited Dugan, an Otsego native, out of high school. “He’s becoming a Big Ten-type of center,” Beilein said, adding that the Broncos do a great job of getting him the ball where he doesn’t need complex moves to score.
Western has shot a lot more free throws than its opponents, though Michigan is No. 1 in the country in not fouling. The Broncos have a turnover problem — they give it away a lot without forcing many.
Michigan is in the middle of final exams, though we’ll see how much of a test the Broncos will provide.
The Michigan women will play Morgan State at Crisler at 11:00 a.m. Those with a ticket to the men’s game can attend.