Michigan's men's basketball team begins the 2018-19 season tonight against Norfolk State, and soon after that the competition really amps up with a rematch of the national title game loss to Villanova. Just one of several November games to get you ready for as the preseason #19 Wolverines get underway.
November 14 @ Villanova
The defending national champions lost a considerable amount of talent, but like the Wolverines will still return a formidable roster that just may take some time to gel. Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall will carry the load early, and have won a lot of games in their career for Jay Wright, arguably the best coach in the sport right now. But behind them is a lot of inexperience. A roster with no juniors, which again like Michigan will rely heavily on a top 10 recruiting class. Villanova is hoping the star of that class, 5-star recruit Jahvon Quinerly, who decommited from Arizona after that school was caught up in the FBI probe, is ready to be its next elite point guard. But taking over for all-timer Jalen Brunson is no easy task.
November 18 vs. Providence or South Carolina @ Uncasville, CT (Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament)
Assuming Michigan gets past George Washington, which Athlon's preseason basketball annual predicted to finish 13th in the 14-team Atlantic 10, the Wolverines would face one of these two teams known for their toughness. Granted, the Gamecocks aren't quite the squad that made a surprising Final Four run in 2017, and Athlon's has them pegged 12th in what could be the deepest SEC in basketball ever. But their big man Chris Silva will test Michigan's interior defense. Providence was a NCAA Tournament team last season, but lost three of its top four players. However, with the second-best incoming recruiting class in the Big East behind only Villanova, the Friars are expected to contend for a March Madness berth nevertheless. They, too, could be a work in progress at this early juncture, though.
November 28 vs. North Carolina (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
A rematch of one of the worst beatdowns Michigan has suffered in the John Beilein era in last year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and the final score was not indicative of the dominance. This North Carolina team could be deeper and more talented overall. Yet it lacks the leadership Joel Barry provided for several years at the point. Former reserve Seventh Woods or freshman Coby White, the leading prep scorer in North Carolina high school basketball history, is expected to replace him. Either one could struggle against Zavier Simpson's tenacious on-the-ball defense, especially on the road at Crisler Center. But in the front-court the Tar Heels will be a tough matchup for Michigan. Luke Maye is garnering preseason ACC Player of the Year recognition, and recall he just destroyed Michigan in last year's game. You always know UNC has size, and this edition is no exception with seven players on the roster listed at 6-7 or taller. And that doesn't even count freshman sensation Rechon Black, who was MVP of the McDonald's All-American game.
Finally, regardless of how these games go, if Michigan gets off to a bit of a slow start this November be careful not to overreact. Remember, last year's team had a bad loss to LSU in the Maui Classic and the aforementioned beatdown in Chapel Hill. Four months later, it was one of the last two teams standing in all of college basketball.