Michigan will play the lowest ranked team on its schedule tonight — four days before Christmas with a 9 p.m. tip off time on ESPNU — when it hosts Alabama A&M.
Alabama A&M is 0-11 on the season and has played 9 of 11 games away from home this year. The Bulldogs weren’t much better last year either, finishing with with a 2-27 record and going through a coaching change this year.
The Bulldogs are one of four teams in the SWAC that have yet to win a game this year and Michigan is the highest ranked team that they’ve faced.
Alabama A&M has the worst offense in the country, per KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. The Bulldogs turn the ball over on 24.8% of their offensive possessions, 346th nationally, and have managed to score a point per possession in just one game this season. Alabama A&M shoots just 41% on twos (340th) and 35% on threes (182nd) for a 44.9 eFG% (323rd). The Bulldogs also rank 225th or worse in offensive rebounding rate and free throw rate.
Defensively, Donnie Marsh’s team will experiment with some full court pressure (7% of possessions) and zone (15% of possessions) but is mostly a man-to-man team. The Bulldogs are slightly better on defense, but not by much, they are ranked 340th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The only Four Factors stat where Alabama A&M is ranked higher than 200th nationally in defensive free throw rate. Teams don’t get to the free throw line often, but that might be because they make 55.6% of their twos and 41.1% of their threes for a 57.7 eFG%. The Bulldogs also have one of the shortest defensive possession lengths in the country at 15.5 seconds.
East Tennessee State grad transfer Julian Walters missed the first 9 games of the season, but he’s made an impact over the last two games averaging 14 points, 16.5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Waters is only 5-foot-10, but he’s shooting the ball well (4-of-5 on twos, 5-of-9 on threes) and looks to have some game based on his performances against UAB and Southern Miss.
De’Ederick Petty does a good job of attacking the paint and getting to the free throw line, but he’s shooting just 25% from three on 48 attempts. Petty has been turnover prone, but is one of the higher usage players in the A&M offense.
6-foot-2 junior Arthur Johnson is a better 3-point shooter at 39%, but he’s shooting just 41% inside the arc. Johnson is also one of the better rebounders on the Bulldog roster despite his size.
6-foot-9, 230 pound junior Mohamed Sherif is the only true big man on the Alabama A&M roster. He shoots just 40% on 2-pointers, but does a good job of getting to the free throw line — where he shoots just 35.6%.
6-foot-7 sophomore Evan Wiley can stretch the floor from the four position. The 200 pound sophomore is shooting 47% (14-of-30) from 3-point range on the season. Wiley is only shooting 36% inside the arc and doesn’t appear to be much of a rebounder.
- Find some energy: No students, a late tip-off, morning flights to see family and friends — there aren’t many natural sources of energy for a Thursday night bout against Alabama A&M. We’ve seen these sort of games go sideways in the past whether it was Savannah State or NJIT and Michigan would do well to get out to an early lead before putting things into holiday cruise mode.
- Get (and stay) healthy: Moritz Wagner is expected to miss another game with a bone bruise in his foot, but his improving health and Michigan staying healthy over the next two games is critical heading into Big Ten play.
- Get Isaiah Livers going: Jon Teske and Jordan Poole have shown brilliant flashes off the bench at times this season, but Isaiah Livers is the one player that Michigan needs more from and hasn’t quite had that breakout performance. These next two games should be a prime opportunity for Livers to provide a spark and grow in confidence heading into Big Ten play.
KenPom projects an 80-50 Michigan win and gives the Wolverines a 99.7% chance at victory. Alabama A&M is ranked 349th nationally — third worst in the country — and this should be a game that Michigan takes care of with relative ease.