One more time, it’s showtime for the Michigan men’s basketball team.
Another chance for Michigan to beat a ranked team on national television.
Another chance for guards Dion Harris and Daniel Horton to show the basketball world how capable they can be.
Another chance for Michigan to show it can beat a talented team without injured starter Lester Abram.
Another chance for walk-on sophomore John Andrews to play a larger role.
That chance comes tomorrow against No. 19 Notre Dame.
After beginning the season 3-0, Michigan has lost three straight games in just about every way a team can lose — a nail-biter to No. 17 Arizona, a mediocre effort against Providence and a blow-out defeat at the hands of No. 3 Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
And, with about four days to catch their breath since Tuesday’s game, the Wolverines face the Fighting Irish at Crisler Arena at noon tomorrow.
“I think (the Notre Dame game) is a must-win,” guard Daniel Horton said. “This is a time when your true character comes out, when you show what kind of team you really have, (if) you are able to bounce back and hopefully win a game against a highly-ranked team.”
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker called the backcourt’s play against the Yellow Jackets “absolutely awful.” The duo combined for just 12 points and committed 10 turnovers.
Harris and Horton will battle against the Notre Dame backcourt of junior Chris Quinn and senior Chris Thomas — a duo that has committed just four combined turnovers in three games. Thomas was a preseason All-Big East First Team selection and Quinn leads the Irish in scoring this season, averaging 17.3 points per game.
“On most nights, the backcourt matchups — those particular positions — can set the tone for the team,” Amaker said. “The responsibilities that those positions have are very big and are not to be taken lightly. I do think the matchup (tomorrow) will be critical in terms of (which) particular backcourt can play better.”
Quinn and Thomas can play interchangeably at the point and shooting guard positions, both are 3-point threats and can effectively feed the Irish’s strong frontcourt of senior Jordan Cornette and junior Torin Francis.
“(Notre Dame has) very experienced players in the backcourt,” Amaker said. “(They) have players very comfortable with one another. I think that (Quinn and Thomas) are outstanding shooters. It’s going to be a very tough matchup for us, given the way that we played with our backcourt guys and the way that they’ve played coming into this particular game.”
Michigan has played its past four games without starter Lester Abram, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury he sustained last March. Amaker said Abram would participate in practice for the first time yesterday since re-injuring the shoulder against Colorado a little over two weeks ago. It’s uncertain whether or not Abram will play tomorrow.
“Right now, the way we are, it’s better to have him a little bit, and we’ll see how that works out,” Amaker said.
Sophomore John Andrews is expected to start instead of Abram. Andrews played just 11 minutes last season, but Amaker praised him for being “one of the very few perimeter players that got offensive rebounds” against Georgia Tech. The wing played efficiently in his first start of the season, hitting 2-of-3 shots for five points and not committing a single turnover.
“I look from where I came from to where I’m at now and I kind of shake my head in disbelief,” the walk-on said.
Andrews and the Wolverines will look to junior captain Graham Brown for leadership. Brown attributed Michigan’s three-game slide to a crack in its confidence and possibly a case of nervousness, but he did not doubt the Wolverines would rebound.
“I can’t remember the last time we let somebody get 99 points on us,” Brown said. “That’s just something that we can’t have in this system and this program. And our guys know that and we will work as hard as we can to get rid of those bugs in our system.”
One thing is for sure: The Wolverines can’t wait to play against the Irish.
“We have to show character and bounce back from losses like Tuesday night,” Horton said. “We’re not thinking about the tournament, we’re not thinking about building a r