Ranking the difficulty of Michigan basketball's non-conference schedule

The Wolverines are facing a tough non-conference slate next season.

Michigan basketball announced their non-conference schedule for the upcoming season on July 10.

Participating in the Gavitt Tipoff Games for the third straight year, the Wolverines will also travel to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis.

As always, the team will participate in the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge. After playing North Carolina in back-to-back years, Michigan gets a new challenge this year as they travel to the KFC Yum! Center to play the Louisville Cardinals.

Beginning with an exhibition game vs. Saginaw Valley State on November 1, the games begin to count on November 5 vs. Appalachian State.

A challenging and diverse non-conference schedule will be a nice test for a new-look Michigan squad before they get into the heart of Big Ten play.

This list will examine the difficulty of all of Michigan’s known non-conference games.

9. Elon

Date: November 15

Venue: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)

Posting an 11-21 overall record, the Phoenix finished 7-11 in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2018-19.

This disappointing season led to the firing of head coach Matt Matheny after 10 seasons and the hiring of Ohio State assistant Mike Schrage. The 43-year-old Schrage had been an assistant under Chris Holtmann since their days at Butler.

The CAA is only a one-bid league, but Elon is projected to be among the bottom feeders once again.

8. Presbyterian College

Date: December 21

Venue: Crisler Center

20-16 last season, Presbyterian’s success led to their coach, Dustin Kerns, leaving for the bigger pastures of Appalachian State.

In addition to losing their head coach, this team only returns one double-digit point scorer from a year ago.

Having had a month-and-a-half of games under their belt by December 21, Michigan should have little trouble with the Blue Hose.

7. UMass Lowell

Date: December 29

Venue: Crisler Center

15-17 overall, the River Hawks were also two games under .500 in the America East Conference (7-9) last year.

Vermont, Stony Brook and UMBC (sorry, Virginia) have been the class of this conference over the last several years. Albany and New Hampshire should be improved programs in 2019-20, so it will be tough for UMass Lowell to get over the hump.

Radford transfer Christian Lutete is a player to watch in this game. He averaged 18.7 PPG and 7.6 RPG a year ago.

6. Houston Baptist

Date: November 22

Venue: Crisler Center

The 2019-20 season will be Ron Cottrell’s 29th season at the helm of the Houston Baptist Huskies. During this time, he has amassed nearly 500 wins.

Despite their 12-18 record, last year’s version of Houston Baptist scored 82.2 PPG (19th out of 353 D-I schools). Problem was, they allowed 82.8 PPG (349th in America).

High scoring teams have a way of keeping things interesting. These two programs have met twice before with Michigan winning by an average of 39.5 points. I doubt it will be that lopsided this time around.

5. Appalachian State

Date: November 5

Venue: Crisler Center

Dustin Kerns was going to face Michigan this season one way or another. Tasked with turning around a Mountaineer program that finished 10th in the Sun Belt last year, he is likely looking at a multi-year project.

Gone are G Ronshad Shabazz and F Tyrell Johnson, two of the team’s four leading scorers last year.

Junior G Justin Forrest averaged 16.2 PPG as a sophomore, but Appalachian State looks to be a middle of the pack team in the Sun Belt this year.

4. Iowa State

Date: November 27

Venue: Imperial Arena (Nassau, Bahamas – Battle 4 Atlantis)

Top to bottom, the Big 12 is as tough of a conference as there is in college basketball. Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor all look like forces to be reckoned with.

This team was carried by Marial Shayok (18.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2 APG) last year, but he is off to the NBA now. Iowa State is projected to be near the bottom of their conference, but Michigan should not overlook this game.

Facing another power five program early in the season, especially at a neutral site, is always tricky.

3. Creighton

Date: November 12

Venue: Crisler Center (Gavitt Tipoff Games)

Advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIT, Creighton’s run of two straight NCAA Tournament appearances came to an end last year.

Returning four players who averaged in double figures a year ago, the Blue Jays should not have difficulty putting the ball in the basket.

Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova all have top-25 potential, but Creighton should finish in the top-half of the Big East.

2. Oregon

Date: December 14

Venue: Crisler Center

Even with the losses of G Ehab Amin, C Bol Bol and F Paul White, the Ducks were expected to return plenty of production.

Instead, forwards Louis King and Kenny Wooten decided to remain in the NBA Draft and G Victor Bailey transferred to Tennessee.

The Ducks made the NCAA Tournament as a 12-seed last season and were able to advance all the way to the Sweet Sixteen where they lost to eventual champion Virginia. Dana Altman gets as much out of his rosters as any coach in the country, but he will have to rely on a lot of new faces in Eugene this year.

1. Louisville

Date: December 3 (Big Ten-ACC Challenge)

Venue: KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, KY)

Projected to be a top-10 team, Chris Mack is beginning to get things clicking at Louisville. Last year, the team fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Minnesota. Ironically, the Gophers are coached by Richard Pitino, son of former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.

The ACC will always be a gauntlet with Duke, North Carolina and Virginia residing in the conference. The Cardinals have the talent to go toe-to-toe with these teams.

Jordan Nwora (17 PPG, 7.6 RPG), Dwayne Sutton (10 PPG, 6.9 RPG) and Steven Enoch (9.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) are all returning for Louisville. On top of this, the Cardinals signed the No. 11 recruiting class in the country in the 2019 cycle, per 247Sports.

The Big Ten-ACC Challenge is always fun. With the test Michigan will receive this year, this will be one of the tougher ones.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Going to be good for this team to have some tough tests before Big Ten play.

Steve Deace
EditorSteve Deace
Steve Deace
EditorSteve Deace