It’s lucky the Michigan men’s basketball team won its two opening games last weekend. Because heading into tonight’s contest at Georgetown, the Wolverines have just about everything else going against them.
Michigan (2-0) will likely start two freshmen guards – Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady – who are both playing their first collegiate game away from Crisler Arena. And they’ll be up against the Hoyas’ veteran backcourt tandem of senior Jonathan Wallace and junior Jessie Sapp.
Georgetown (1-0) boasts a future NBA lottery pick in preseason All-American center Roy Hibbert, who will be matched up with Wolverine sophomore Zach Gibson, a player not known for his ability to bang in the paint.
To make matters worse, Michigan coach John Beilein boasts an unspectacular 3-4 record against Georgetown while at West Virginia.
“This was, last year, probably, the only game where (the Mountaineers) weren’t in it from the beginning to the end,” Beilein said. “It haunts me a little bit there, but we’re just going to go in there and do our best. It’s a tough task playing these guys.”
But the Wolverines do have those two wins (Redford, Brown) to hang their hats on. Some legitimately dangerous weapons emerged in those victories. Harris proved to be the type of slashing, shooting guard that coaches covet. Sophomore forward DeShawn Sims showed an ability to score inside and outside, averaging more than 20 points per game, garnering Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
It will take more than Sims and Harris to beat the loaded Hoyas. Even though it struggled a bit to beat William and Mary last weekend, Georgetown has a legitimate chance to make a return trip to the Final Four.
With Hibbert, Wallace and Sapp, the Hoyas boast a scoring trio that can match up with the best teams in the nation. All three had more than 15 points in their opener.
But Georgetown has had to adjust to the loss of forward Jeff Green, who went No. 5 in the NBA Draft. Since this is just their second game of the season, the Hoyas may not have found a rhythm yet, considering Green was their leader and go-to player in crunch time. Georgetown may have a hidden weapon.
Freshman guard Austin Freeman is one of the nation’s best first-year players, and should pick up some of the slack Green left behind.
But the Wolverines seemed very comfortable with the challenge at hand when talking with the media after practice yesterday. Players know the pressure falls squarely on the shoulders of heavily favored Georgetown.
“We’re a young team and we’re not going on expectations,” Sims said. “We’re just going out and playing and competing and that’s all the coaches have been asking of us. When you’re older, you tend to have expectations.”