|Who: Slippery Rock (0-0) at Michigan (0-0)|
|Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)|
|When: 8:30 p.m., Friday, November 9th, 2012|
|TV: BTN.com/MGoBlue All-Access|
|More: Beilein preview video; Morgan, Bartelstein previews, Pick to Click|
Slippery Rock isn’t the grandiose season opening opponent that many had hoped for to christen the newly renovated Crisler Center but the Slippery Rock might not be the pushover that many expect from a Division II team either. Slippery Rock returns four starters and already knocked off a Division I team in early preseason exhibition play.
Slippery Rock finished 17-10 (14-8) last season in the PSAC but started this season off on a strong note, handling Navy in an exhibition win by a score of 79-56. The Rock didn’t just beat Navy, they pummeled them by 23 points; more than doubling the Midshipmen’s score at halftime and leading by as many as 30 points in the second half. Ed DeChellis’s Navy squad won just three games last season (two against Division I schools) and is picked to finish 321st by Ken Pomeroy but most Division II teams don’t blow out any Division I teams.
Slippery Rock is atypical for a lower Division team because they have a surprising amount of size. The Slippery Rock starting lineup goes 5-10, 6-2, 6-6, 6-8, 6-10 across the board. There’s also plenty of experience on Kevin Reynolds’s roster with four seniors and one junior in the starting lineup.
Brazilian senior Luiz Santos anchors the post, measuring in at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, and had a strong 10 point (5-6 fg), 10 rebound performance against Navy. He averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds as a junior last season and should provide a formidable test for Michigan’s front line.
Redshirt senior Devin Taylor is Slippery Rock’s top returning scorer and averaged a double double last season at 14 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was a first team All-PSAC West selection and the league’s top rebounder and should provide a physical presence around the basket at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds. Tabari Perry is another player with Division I size at 6-foot-8 and the second team All-PSAC West forward averaged 9 points and eight rebounds per game last season
While the front court is formidable, the backcourt isn’t quite up to par. 5-foot-10 guard Aubin Reeves averaged 10 points, three rebounds and three assists per game last season while starting all 27 games at point guard. The small guard gets his points but struggles to finish effectively, shooting just 44% on twos and 20% on threes.
The Rock graduated their primary three point threat from a season ago and most of their offense comes from around the basket. John Bayardelle is one exception and appears to be a consistent threat, connecting on 38% of his triples last season. Bayardelle connected on both three point attempts against Navy while his teammates combined to go just 3 of 15 from long distance. The Slippery Rock website also praises the 6-foot-2 guard as a “defensive specialist”.
Michigan will face plenty of more stringent tests but Slippery Rock should provide more resistance than the Wolverines have seen in exhibition play. The storyline to watch will be whether Michigan’s improved front line – which has been dominant rebounding in early play – can translate those results into the regular season. Michigan rebounded over 40% of its missed shots and 75% of its opponents’ in both exhibition games and it would be impressive to carry that performance into the regular season.
An individual match-up to follow is freshman Glenn Robinson III against The Rock front line of Devin Taylor and Tabari Perry. Robinson has been an efficient scorer (30 points on 12 of 17 shooting) but he’s grabbed just three rebounds in two games. Taylor is a prototypical undersized rebounding forward while Perry has more size than the Michigan freshman. This game could be an early hint of how well equipped Robinson is to fare at the four position against more physical teams. Conversely, Tim Hardaway Jr. has been rebounding well against smaller teams (11 defensive rebounds in two games) and will look to continue that against a bigger lineup.
In the back court, Michigan should have a clear advantage. Trey Burke’s abilities need no explanation but with Hardaway, Stauskas and Vogrich on the wings, the Wolverines should be able to take advantage of size and shooting ability against Slippery Rock’s guards.
John Beilein plans to tighten his rotation in the season opener, sticking with a starting lineup of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Matt Vogrich, Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan and opting for Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht off the bench. Jon Horford is also expected back from injury and should get some minutes while Nik Stauskas is working through back spasms and is questionable for the season opener.
Michigan plays three games in the next five days and will look to continue its preseason momentum. All three games should be incrementally more challenging as the Wolverines ease their way into the season. Michigan’s March 16th loss to Ohio feels like ages ago and now the games count once again as the Wolverines open their season.
This & That
Michigan will unveil its Big Ten Championship banner on November 27th before the game against North Carolina State. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. wer both named to the Wooden Top-50 watch list. Tonight’s Slippery Rock counts for Michigan’s official record (but not RPI) but won’t count in the official win-loss column for Slippery Rock. Find streaming information (it’ll cost you 10 bucks) right here. Dave Telep notes Nik Stauskas as the sixth man on his Surprise All-Freshman team.