A year ago, Michigan’s 80-58 rout of UCF was the program’s coming out party. The Wolverines looked like a good team in the early season, but their demolition of UCF — a game that included a 19-2 first-half run and a 31-5 second-half run — raised expectations for a season that started without many. Those devastating runs became a staple for the Wolverines, and a blowout win over UCF turned into more blowout wins over tougher and tougher competition.
This year’s Michigan team is still looking for that edge, efficiency and execution that made last year’s team special. In contrast, this year’s UCF team is significantly better than the squad that Michigan ran off the court in Ann Arbor last winter. This year’s meeting (7:00 p.m., ESPN2) is also in Orlando, not Ann Arbor.
The Knights are 8-2 and ranked 53rd by KenPom. They don’t have many shiny wins — their best is 95-89 at No. 99 Miami — but their two losses are against top-35 programs Oklahoma and Auburn. This is a game that Michigan can win on paper, the type of wins that will go a long way toward getting the season back on track, and it is the last chance to pick up a quality win in the non-conference season.