1. “Michigan Madness” (Press Release)
John Beilein just get’s it. He’s not a flashy guy, but he knows how to run a program. This was the perfect year to implement some sort of Midnight Madness program, your blogger even begged for it, and Beilein got it done.
The turnout for Michigan’s Selection Sunday event was surprisingly strong for an event that was scheduled days earlier so I am confident about a strong turnout here. Marketing will of course be important, and I expect that it will pick up as the date nears.
For one of the first times in recent history there is a buzz around Michigan basketball. Student tickets are up something like 400% and people are ready for the season. The only drawback about the event is that it is the Friday of Michigan’s “fall study break” (which runs Sat-Tues).
2. Big Games
At least eight (up to 11) conference games on national TV, a marquee non-conference home game, a road game at the consensus pre-season #1, the Big Ten/ACC challenge, and a premiere pre-season tournament. This schedule is absolutely loaded.
There is no doubt that John Beilein went out and scheduled the best teams in the country. This team will be challenged but they will have every opportunity to make a statement.
For the most part, I think the conference schedule is balanced. It doesn’t appear to be front or back loaded. There are tough stretches throughout. The two toughest include Jan 17th to 26th when Michigan will play UConn, @Wisconsin, @Purdue, and MSU at home as well as the final stretch against Illinois, @OSU, Minnesota, and @MSU.
There are easier stretches as well including Michigan’s first 5 game stretch which includes two against Indiana, a trip to Penn State, and Northwestern and Ohio State at home. It will be critical that Michigan gets off to a quick start before that tough late January stretch.
Michigan also plays 5 of their 9 conference home games on weekends which seems about right.
4. Student Break Games
There are always games that fall on student break, ideally you want as many road games as possible over these periods. By my calculations, there should only be two home games without students: Ohio State and Minnesota. These are both important games, and the Minnesota game down the stretch will likely be a late-season battle near the top of the standings, but the situation definitely could be worse.
On the flip side, Michigan’s season finale at the Breslin will be during Michigan State’s spring break. I am sure MSU will have no problem selling tickets for that game but every little break helps.
Judging my quick run through, I’ll put the over under around 21 wins and 11 conference wins. The conference is going to be extremely tough and balanced again this year so there will be a lot of games that could go either way. As always the conference will come down to defending home court and stealing a couple games on the road.
In the non-conference, I think this team loses one at the Old Spice Classic and loses in Lawrence.