Over the last week, the No. 3 Michigan basketball team played two games in the famed Madison Square Garden, won its first-ever NIT Season Tip-Off and beat its first ranked opponent of the season. And all three of those games were on ESPN in front of a national audience.
It’s difficult to judge a team when it plays opponents like Slippery Rock or Cleveland State. Last week, the Wolverines went unscathed in their biggest stretch of the young season, and it gets easier to judge them when they play teams like Pittsburgh and then-No.18 North Carolina State.
But this weekend, Michigan gets a break from major-conference teams. On Saturday, the Wolverines travel to Peoria, Ill. to take on Bradley, a team that went 7-25 in the less-than-illustrious Missouri Valley Conference last season.
It’s Michigan’s first true road game of the year — the preseason tournament last week was technically at a neutral site — but Bradley has also never hosted a non-conference opponent with this high of a ranking in its history. You’d have to go back to 1982 to find the last time the Braves played a team ranked top-three nationally.
Bradley (5-1) finishes off the month tied for the most November wins in program history, so it’s not like the Braves are in the midst of a terrible season. Their entire starting five is averaging double-digits in points, and a sixth player is averaging close to nine.
Still, Michigan is expected blow by this team without a problem. It’s the No. 3 team in the country against a team that has wins over Upper Iowa and Texas-Pan American among others. Ten points and a hat tip to anyone that can name those mascots.
There is the possibility of a letdown game, just as there is a possibility of a letdown game when any highly-ranked team plays a mid-major on the road. This is Bradley’s biggest game of the year — you can count on the building being full and the Braves to come out with some energy.
But Bradley, a private university with 5,300 undergraduate students, and Michigan, a public university with 27,400 undergraduate students, don’t have much in common.
The biggest similarity came from a common opponent from the middle of November — Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Michigan won that game by 37, Bradley beat the Jaguars by seven.