If the Michigan basketball team wants to avoid back-to-back road losses against Mid-American Conference teams, several questions need to be answered.
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Wolverines will travel to Bowling Green, which already has proved it can play with the big boys of college basketball.
After opening the season with an 82-78 overtime victory over 2001 Sweet 16 participant Mississippi, the Falcons posted a 73-70 win over Delaware, a 20-game winner last season.
Washington coach Bob Bender, whose team dealt Bowling Green its lone defeat this season, went so far as to call them an NCAA Tournament team.
Bowling Green (3-1) sits at No. 22 in the latest RPI ratings, light years ahead of the 210th-ranked Wolverines (2-1).
On Friday, Western Michigan displayed tremendous outside shooting ability, jumping all over Michigan with a 15-2 run that consisted of five 3-point shots. Despite a late surge, the Wolverines left Kalamazoo with a 79-73 loss.
The most pressing question for Michigan is: Can it improve its perimeter defense?
It better, because the Falcons have already proven their ability to open up with a hot hand at home.
On Saturday night, Bowling Green set a school and MAC record by draining its first 10 3-pointers. The Falcons went on to defeat Defiance, a Division III school in Ohio, by the score of 107-80.
“We don”t depend a lot on our outside shooting,” Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich said. “We couldn”t be that hot again in an empty gym. But when people give us the open shot, we”ll make it.”
Even after dealing with the challenges that Bowling Green presents, Michigan must still overcome its road woes.
Last year, the Wolverines were 2-11 away from Crisler Arena. Michigan has managed a combined road record of 9-34 in Brian Ellerbe”s three seasons as head coach.
During the Fab Five era, Steve Fisher coached his team to a record of 32-9 outside of Ann Arbor and two Final Four appearances in as many years.
If the Wolverines want to return to the glory days of old, winning on the road will be a key part of that resurgence.
Finally, Michigan must find a way to rebound after its poor showing against Western Michigan.
There are several schools of thought on how the Wolverines should do this.
Some players are taking the loss in stride, while others are furious, awaiting their chance to shine.
“We can”t sit here with our heads down,” said sophomore forward Bernard Robinson. “This was just the third game of the season.”
“Every game, we have to play like we”re down, even if we”re up 30,” said freshman guard Dommanic Ingerson. “We have to fight through this.”
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker has taken a wait-and-see attitude.
“This is a long horse race,” Amaker said after the Western Michigan loss. “This is some adversity that we are going to face right here.
“I am anxious to see how we are going to respond.”