While Michigan (1-0) did not face much resistance in its win over Norfolk State, it showed there are plenty of areas that need improvement. The majority of the issues live on the offensive end of the floor and can hopefully be resolved quick, as the schedule gets heavy fast.
Fortunately, the Wolverines get one more lighter foe before traveling to Villanova next week. The Holy Cross Crusaders (1-0) come to Ann Arbor Saturday hoping to fare better than Rutgers will against the Michigan football team. Expect the Maize and Blue to crush both opponents easily.
Michigan: Overall (27), Offense (39) Defense (15)
Holy Cross: Overall (203), Offense (195), Defense (225)
Holy Cross won its season opener in a shootout at home, outlasting Sacred Heart 93-81. The Crusaders are coming off a 12-19 season that featured no games against Power Five opponents and a 290th Kenpom ranking. This year’s outlook is slightly better, but not by a ton.
Guard Austin Butler led the way against Sacred Heart, scoring 26 points and going 4-for-5 from deep. His 28.1 usage rate was far ahead of his peers, though guard Patrick Benzan also added 19 points on a .950 effective field goal percentage. The Crusaders moved the ball well throughout the game, racking up 25 assists in total, including 11 from forward Jehyve Floyd alone.
The defense obviously struggled, as Holy Cross allowed 67.4 percent shooting (!) from the floor. This number is clearly due for some major regression, but it could be an opportunity for Michigan to recalibrate its shooting. Sacred Heart hit seven of its 17 three-point attempts, which would be a big improvement over the Wolverines’ first outing.
What to watch
Fix the free throws: Holy Cross committed 19 fouls in the first game and averaged around 17 per game last season. Michigan needs all of the practice it can get after a horrendous 45 percent effort against Norfolk State. There really is not any strategy to it; players just need to make their shots.
Leading with defense: Everything seemed to be clicking for Michigan on the defensive end, which is a great sign early on. Getting younger players to understand the system is always a concern, but there were not many clear breakdowns against Norfolk State. Holy Cross is coming off a high-offense outing that included 1.36 points per possession. It should be a mismatch, but the Wolverines can validate their defense with another good showing.
Finding scoring: Ignas Brazdeikis showed little fear in his first outing as a Wolverine, and he could be a major force on offense. He and Jon Teske led the way on the score sheet, but it will be interesting to see who else steps up. Look for Jordan Poole to bounce back a bit after missing all five shots in the opener.