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Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

5 key games for the Michigan basketball team

By Nick Baumgardner

Five key Michigan basketball games to watch this season:

Nov. 21 vs. Memphis (Maui Invitational)


Memphis sophomore Joe Jackson is one part of lineup loaded with scorers.

Associated Press

The Wolverines begin their journey in Hawaii against one of the more athletic teams they'll play all season. No. 11 Memphis brings back its top six scorers, led by 6-foot-9 senior Wesley Witherspoon and sophomore guard Joe Jackson. The Tigers will also unveil five-star freshman small forward Adonis Thomas. It'll be Michigan's first chance to prove it is for real. A win could also set up a game against Duke.

Nov. 29 at Virginia

Michigan's first true road game, and a contest it should win. However, the test could be more mental than physical, as the Wolverines will be forced to make a quick turnaround from Maui to Charlottesville in a matter of days. A victory would also give Michigan its first two-game win streak in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Jan. 17 vs. Michigan State

Michigan swept Michigan State a year ago and enters this season with a higher national ranking. And, no, this isn't the early 1990s. The Spartans will no doubt be out for revenge, and the Wolverines will have a chance to prove last season wasn't a fluke. And, for the first time in a long time, Michigan will be expected to win. Strange, but likely true.

Jan. 21 at Arkansas

Michigan takes a January break from Big Ten play to travel to Fayetteville with the once mighty Razorbacks. The last two times Michigan met Arkansas on the court came in postseason play (NIT in 1997, Elite Eight in 1994). Arkansas has a new coach (former Missouri boss Mike Anderson), but Michigan shouldn't sleep on this team. The Razorbacks signed one of the best classes in the country, led by guards B.J. Young and Ky Madden, along with big men Devonta Abron and Hunter Mickelson.

Feb. 18 vs. Ohio State

Michigan will welcome in rival Ohio State, the odds-on favorite to claim the Big Ten title, and a national audience with ESPN's “College GameDay” featuring this late-season game. The Wolverines have dropped five straight to the Buckeyes and have won just two of the last 16 meetings between the two schools. This game will rival the home date with MSU as the season's hottest home ticket and Big Ten title implications could be at stake.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.