Wednesday, the Michigan basketball team’s 14-game non-conference schedule was released, and like last season, it features lackluster competition.
This season’s exhibition game against Armstrong State on Nov. 4 will include another matchup that holds ties to head coach John Beilein. In last season’s exhibition, the Wolverines hosted Le Moyne, where Beilein used to coach and where his son Patrick currently reigns as the head coach. Against Armstrong State, former Michigan basketball star Cazzie Russell returns to Ann Arbor as the current assistant coach for the Pirates,
The Wolverines’ regular season non-conference slate, though facing marginally stronger opponents according to the ratings percentage index, will see another weak home schedule: Texas (Dec. 6) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 30) are the lone teams in the RPI’s top 100 that Michigan will host, with the matchup against the Hokies being apart of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Wolverines’ opening games against Howard (Nov. 11) and IUPUI (Nov. 13) in Ann Arbor will take place as a part of the 2K Classic. Following those two games, Michigan will fly out to New York City to Madison Square Garden for the 2K Classic Championship Round. There, the Wolverines will square up against Marquette (Nov. 17) and either Pittsburgh or SMU (Nov. 18) in the championship or consolation game.
“Marquette, Pittsburgh and SMU are all challenging opponents,” Beilein said in a statement. “We love having this opportunity to compete for a preseason championship in Madison Square Garden.”
Perhaps some of Michigan’s most competitive non-conference games will occur on the road against South Carolina (Nov. 23) and UCLA (Dec. 10). Both teams missed last year’s NCAA Tournament, but the Gamecocks are currently ranked No. 72 in the RPI.
The rest of the non-conference games include home matchups versus Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 26), Kennesaw State (Dec. 3), Central Arkansas (Dec. 13), Maryland Eastern Shore (Dec. 17) and Furman (Dec. 22).
Though the home games seem unexciting, Beilein is excited about many of the games the Wolverines managed to land.
“We were successful in scheduling some very competitive home-and-home games for 2016,” Beilein said in a statement. “These games not only guarantee a strong RPI but provide our fans some exciting non-conference games in Ann Arbor. These types of opponents have always proved to be excellent preparation for our tough Big Ten schedule.”
Barring any upsets in their non-conference schedule, Michigan will likely have to repeat what it did last season against Big Ten opponents to secure another spot in the NCAA Tournament.