4 things to watch in the Bradley at Michigan basketball game
Every game counts, technically.
But after this one, they really begin to count.
The Michigan basketball team will host its final non-conference tuneup prior to the start of Big Ten play Thursday (6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) when Bradley visits Crisler Arena.
The 20th-ranked Wolverines (9-2) will be seeking their fifth-straight win in a game that will take on a special meaning for Michigan coach John Beilein, as his son Patrick is currently on the Bradley staff as a director of basketball 0perations.
Here are four things to watch for Thursday:
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Paging Jordan Morgan
Jon Horford has missed two straight games, meaning there's been extra post minutes for whoever wants them.
More specifically, there's been an extra opportunity for sophomore forward Jordan Morgan to get into a consistent rhythm on the floor. An opportunity he's done little with.
Morgan had two points, five rebounds and three turnovers in 21 minutes against Arkansas-Pine Bluff before putting in six points, five rebounds and two turnovers in 19 minutes against Alabama A&M.
Morgan's numbers haven't plummeted from a year ago, but they are down.
Evan Smotrycz is a different player, and should be able to provide plenty of inside help this season for Michigan during Big Ten play.
But Morgan has to be there also, and Thursday is a good chance for him to build some confidence heading into the holiday break, and, eventually, league play.
Does the Brundidge PG experiment continue?
Michigan gave freshman point guard Carlton Brundidge 13 minutes off the bench against Alabama A&M, allowing him to serve as a backup (and breath-catcher) for freshman point guard Trey Burke.
During his weekly radio show Monday, Michigan coach John Beilein said Brundidge is being groomed as a point guard, and if he's to going to play at all going forward, it'll be as a lead ball-handler.
This experiment could be a double-win for Michigan this season, as Burke clearly needs more rest (he's logging nearly 33 minutes per game) and Brundidge — who averaged 20.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and five assists as a high school senior last year — has the potential to be an impact performer.
However, this is still an experiment. Brundidge was not a natural facilitator in high school or on the AAU circuit, and has been more of a natural scorer throughout the early portion of his career. Playing point guard is sort of new to him, and playing it in the Big Ten is even more foreign.
But, for now at least, Beilein seems committed to making this work. And, if it does, all parties involved will likely see beneficial results.
Force Bradley to the perimeter
There's really no getting around it, the Braves have not shot the ball well from the outside.
Overall, Bradley is shooting 28.2 percent from behind the 3-point line, with leading scorer Taylor Brown and guard Jake Eastman going a combined 13-for-56.
In a 15-point loss at Wyoming, Bradley was 0-for-14 from deep. In a 23-point loss to Wisconsin, the Braves went 1-for-7. In a home setback against Wofford, they were 4-for-17.
Get the picture?
Bradley hasn't shown any ability to consistently score from the outside, so, if you're Michigan, play the numbers.
Force Bradley to fire away, and be ready to hit the transition game after a bevy of long rebounds.
Create your own energy
Coaches will often use this term when a team hits the road in a rather subdued atmosphere. But on Thursday, Michigan may want to follow this rule during a home game.
Bradley isn't exactly an eye-catching opponent here in Ann Arbor (sorry, Braves), and, more importantly, a good portion of the "Maize Rage" could be out of town for holiday break.
Michigan had a decent (and relatively noisy, all things considered) crowd of 10,497 against Alabama A&M on Saturday after drawing just 9,005 a week ago against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
What will the decibel level inside Crisler Arena be for Bradley on Thursday? Probably not overly imposing.
So, create your own energy: Meaning, figure out a way to maintain home-court intensity even if the crowd behind you isn't all that raucous.
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