On New Year’s Day, the Michigan men’s basketball team will head to Iowa City to take on Iowa in its Big Ten opener.
But before then, one more non-conference opponent awaits in Furman.
The Wolverines (9-3) are wrapping up a string of what coach John Beilein calls “guarantee” games after dismantling both Maryland Eastern Shore and Central Arkansas.
Michigan shot impressively well in each game, following up on its performance at UCLA, where the Wolverines shot a torrid 65.5 percent in the first half.
Against the Bears, Michigan shot 51.6 percent, including 19-for-45 from behind the arc — which were both programs records in 3-point attempts and 3-point attempts made — to win 97-53.
The Wolverines followed that up with a 98-point offensive output against the Hawks, where they shot 65.4 percent from the field.
Beilein, though, is weary of the results and is aware that the competition level isn’t up to par with NCAA Tournament-caliber teams.
“The teams that we have beaten in these guarantee games, we should beat them,” Beilein said. “But we can always lose those games.
“We’ve come to play after the UCLA loss. I thought that was encouraging.”
Thursday, though, Michigan will go up against arguably the toughest of its “guarantee” games in the Paladins (7-5).
“Of all our guarantee games, this is without a doubt, the best opponent among all of those games,” Beilein said. “They have four road wins right now. I don’t know if anyone in the country has four road wins.
“They got a veteran team that went to the postseason last year, and only (lost) one player on that team.”
The last time the Wolverines played a squad from South Carolina, it didn’t go too well, and it offers a cautionary tale for Michigan.
The Wolverines shot just 19.2 percent from the field, including just 2-for-26 from behind the arc, against No. 22 South Carolina to lose 61-46 on Nov. 23.
Furman, though, won’t pose nearly as tough of a challenge as the Gamecocks did.
The Paladins are led by guard Devin Sibley, who averages 15.1 points per game, while inside, forward Kris Acox leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game.
Furman starts four shooters along with Acox inside, which Beilein mentioned will be a challenge to defend.
“We haven’t played a team in a bit that has four shooters on the court all the time,” Beilein said. “We’ve (come up against) some really good individual players that we could key in on, but not four guys we have to guard from (three-point range).”
The Paladins are coming off a win at Tennessee Tech and have won five of their last seven games. Furman has played each opponent they’ve faced competitively, having not lost to any opponent by more than six points.
But for Michigan, the matchup will allow the Wolverines one last tune-up before Big Ten play begins.
And with the way it has been shooting lately, Michigan will have one last opportunity to maintain its momentum before hitting the meat of the schedule.