Michigan Basketball: Mismatches Wolverines Are Dreading in 2014-15
While the Michigan Wolverines basketball program has been very successful the last few seasons, that doesn't necessarily mean the team will have it easy contending for the Big Ten title or go on to have another successful, deep NCAA tournament run this year.
Playing in the Big Ten paired with a strong nonconference schedule, naturally there are some mismatches (think Wisconsin, Arizona, Syracuse, Ohio State, etc.) that could cause trouble all year for the Wolverines.
With Michigan sans Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan, it will have to compensate for a lot of scoring and rebounding, and plenty of teams could potentially exploit its weaknesses. Rebounding, especially, will be a major concern, and there are Big Ten teams and nonconference foes that will present a multitude of matchup problems for Michigan in that area.
Ahead in this slideshow are the top seven mismatches (ranked in order of toughness) the Wolverines are dreading for the 2014-15 season. Again, while Michigan should be poised for another successful season, there could be some pitfalls along the way, and the following teams should present some big problems.
Considering that Iowa ranked seventh in the NCAA in rebounding (40.7 rebounds a game) last year, it should continue to present matchup problems. After all, Iowa split the season series with Michigan last year and thrashed them at home, beating the Wolverines 85-67 while out-rebounding them 38-29.
The Hawkeyes return Aaron White, Jarrod Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Gabriel Olaseni, all of whom are effective glass eaters. And with the way Iowa spreads the floor with shooters (think Mike Gesell), it will make the job all the more tougher for Michigan.
With Iowa coming of an NCAA tournament appearance last year after an eight-year drought, the Hawkeyes will be amped to build on that success.
6. Ohio State
You know the Buckeyes will always give Michigan fits, and the 2014-15 season will certainly be no different.
Ohio State will also have to overcome some departures (Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Amedeo Della Valle), but it has a backcourt (Shannon Scott and incoming stud freshman D'Angelo Russell) that can hang with the Wolverines.
However, it's the Buckeyes frontcourt of center Amir Williams and forwards Sam Thompson and Anthony Lee that will cause Michigan problems when the two teams take the court next winter.
Under the guidance of head coach Tim Miles, the Cornhuskers had themselves a breakthrough season in 2013-14 and will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten for the foreseeable future.
Sure, Michigan swept the season series last year (winning by 29 in Ann Arbor), but with the personnel losses the Wolverines have endured, expect Nebraska to give the them more trouble this year.
With Terran Petteway expected to contend for Big Ten Player of the Year and Nebraska having big bodies (Walter Pitchford and David Rivers) to bang in the post, Michigan will get all it can handle from the Cornhuskers this year.
4. Michigan State
The in-state battle between the Wolverines and Spartans will always be a slug-it-out affair, and that most definitely will extend into the 2014-15 season.
While Michigan State loses three key players in Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, the Spartans will have another talented and deep team.
Branden Dawson and his 8.3 rebounds per game (which he averaged last year), will especially give Michigan trouble. Although he is just listed at 6'6", Dawson is a beast on the glass and is an absolute menace in the paint. He is a threat for a double-double every time he steps on the floor.
Although Michigan swept Michigan State last year in the regular season, it did lose to the Spartans in the Big Ten championship when Dawson was healthy (he was injured for the other two games). So, with a healthy Dawson, expect the Spartans to present a lot of problems for Michigan this year.
Michigan's contest with the Orange in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge should be quite the game. The two are set to play on December 2, 2014, at the Crisler Center in a rematch up of their 2013 final four game.
Yes, Michigan rose to the challenge back in 2013, beating the Orange 61-56 to get to the NCAA title game, but Syracuse's 2-3 zone is always a nightmare to prepare for.
Granted, Michigan has the shooters to shoot over the top of the zone, but Syracuse's height and length are always major factors to deal with. And although the Orange lost Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Baye Moussa Keita from last year, they always field a strong lineup under the tutelage of head coach Jim Boeheim.
Big men Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman, in particular, could be in line for breakout years and will no doubt present matchup difficulties under the boards.
The Badgers had themselves a fine 2013-14 season, culminating with a trip to the Final Four. However, the overriding thought is they can be even better this coming year.
Wisconsin will basically be minus just one key contributor from last year in Ben Brust. So, the Badgers have to be considered the early favorites to win the Big Ten. With the athletic and ever-improving Sam Dekker and 7'0" stretch center extraordinaire Frank Kaminsky anchoring the front line, the Badgers will present difficult mismatches for when Michigan faces them with their young and inexperienced front line.
Michigan's battle with Wisconsin should be rough, rugged and intense to watch this year.
In a hotly contested game with the Wildcats (who were ranked No. 1 at the time), the Wolverines lost a close one, 72-70, at home last year. This year, they will have to travel halfway across the country to take on Arizona in Tuscon in the rematch.
Suffice to say, this will be a tough game in which to seek revenge. With Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson up front, the Wildcats have an experienced and talented front line that will give Michigan head coach John Beilein headaches leading up to the game, which is set for December 13.
In last year's contest, Arizona out-rebounded Michigan 37-24, and that was with McGary part of the team. So, the sledding will get significantly much tougher this year.
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