The Wolverines host the #9 UCLA Bruins for a test that will be much harder than their final exams that they just finished. The game looks like a potential blow out but hopefully the Wolverines can get an early Christmas gift. Beilein beat UCLA last year at home and also knocked off Kansas his first year at West Virginia so maybe there is a chance. Read the rest of this story for full position by position breakdown of the match-up as well as some other thoughts.
Time: 2pm EST
PG: Darren Collison vs Kelvin Grady
Collison and Grady are similar in stature, but their games are at different points in their developments. Collison is a probable All American at point guard and Kelvin is a promising freshman who is probably in a little over his head. In his four games since returning from injury Collison is averaging 14ppg, 4.0 apg to .8 to/pg and clearly not showing much rust. Grady meanwhile is averaging 7.1 ppg and 3.1 ast to 1.0 turnovers. The biggest worry in this match-up is Kelvin handling Collison on the defensive side of the ball. Central Michigan guard Giordan Watson gave Grady fits, and Collison is in a whole new league compared to Watson. Advantage: UCLA
SG: Russell Westbrook vs Manny Harris
Westbrook is in his first year of significant playing time at UCLA and is handling it just fine. Averaging 31 minutes per game after taking over lots of Collison’s minutes due to injury. Westbrook is averaging 11.6ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.1 rpg with over a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. Manny has been the force that drives Michigan this year on the offensive side of the ball averaging 16.1 ppg, 4.9rpg, and 3.0 apg. Although Manny struggled last game and got benched for walk-on David Merritt he should bounce back against UCLA on the big stage. Manny has the size advantage here against Westbrook and needs to take advantage. Manny is the key to success in this game, if he can reduce the freshman mistakes he can be a force for Michigan.
WF: Josh Shipp vs Ron Coleman
Ron Coleman has almost become deadweight on the Michigan roster. I don’t think there has ever been another player as marginal as Ron Coleman that has been a 4 year starter at a Big Ten school. Ronnie cost Michigan last weekend against CMU when he missed a wide open three that would have cut the game to one. However Josh Shipp is a beast and averaging over 14 points per game as UCLA’s second leading scorer. Shipp is a versatile player who is on an entirely different level than Ron Coleman and this match-up could get ugly.
PF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs DeShawn Sims
Mbah a Moute is a junior forward who has been consistent throughout his whole career. A big man who will be a force on the glass (huge problem for Michigan) and get his 10 points or so per game. This is a guy that could dominate Michigan due to his size and aggression on the glass. Michigan has struggled all year on the glass and in the paint and Mbah a Moute will not help. DeShawn Sims is a budding star for the Wolverines but also is still very inconsistent. The zero point efforts such as Georgetown still haunt the sophomore wing. Biggest thing that I will look for from “Peedi” is defensive intensity, awareness and good rebounding.
C: Kevin Love vs Ekpe Udoh
Kevin Love is a future lottery pick in the NBA draft, an unselfish big who seems likely to dominate this game. Luckily for Michigan Ekpe is our best defender on the team, however this match-up still has to be scary for the Wolverines. I am sure none of them are looking forward to getting their first look at Kevin Love. This match-up should be interesting to watch and Ekpe will not be intimated having faced Greg Oden, Roy Hibbert and many other future NBA bigs.
The bench has been a huge problem for the Wolverines, after the departure of K’Len Morris the bench is even more thin. Zack Gibson and CJ Lee can be counted on for some solid minutes. But past that Jevohn Shepherd, Anthony Wright and David Merritt are not going to provide much encouragement for Michigan fans. UCLA brings Mata-Real, Dragovic, Aboya, and Roll off the bench, all four of these guys average 13 to 20 minutes and look to be pretty solid performers. UCLA doesn’t have the bench that Duke has (when they had Michigan’s bench outscored something like 38-2) but it is definitely an advantage for UCLA.
This one looks lopsided on paper and Michigan has not shown anything to make it look like it will be any different. Michigan has had some close games with UCLA at home, I am sure we will always remember Graham Browns intercepted outlet pass preventing a probable win for Michigan. But after last years drubbing by the Bruins its hard to get excited for this game. Perhaps the crowd will be better than early games but it looks like there are still plenty of tickets available on MGoBlue.com also the Maize Rage will not be in full force as the students are home for winter break.