By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
Last night at a Tailgate Tour event, Fred Hoiberg announced that his Cyclones would match up with the Big Ten’s Michigan Wolverines in each of the next two seasons, starting in Ann Arbor in 2011-12. Michigan will travel to Ames in 2013-14.
Exciting? Heck yes. But realize fanatics that this takes things up a notch. Michigan is going to be very good.
With the in-state games against Iowa, Northern Iowa and Drake, a trip to the South Padre Invite (Providence is known as a likely opponent), now Michigan and that 18-game Big 12 slate, the Cyclones won’t have to worry about their strength of schedule when March rolls around.
Here’s a quick look at what Michigan expects to have back for the 2011-12 season.
– Four of Michigan’s five starters will return from last season.
When you factor in that the 2011-12 Cyclones will essentially be brand new, give Michigan gets the edge when it comes to experience in this matchup.
Michigan nearly upset Duke in the third round of the Big Dance, losing to the Blue Devils by only three. That was after pasting Tennessee in round two of the tournament by 30.
The 2010-11 Wolverines finished the season 21-14 (9-9).
It was an up and down season for Michigan. Between Jan. 5 and Jan. 22, the Wolverines lost six straight games. John Beilein’s seat was smoking hot at that point and the future appeared to be awfully meek. The most impressive thing about this team was after that nasty six-game skid, Michigan won nine of its next 12 and went on to make a tournament run.
The longer last season went on, the better these Wolverines got.
Michigan will likely be a preseason top 25 team when November rolls around.
– Darius Morris was the straw that stirred this drink last year. Morris led the Wolverines in scoring averaging 15 points per game. He also led the team in assists, with 6.7 per game. Morris though is on his way to the NBA so that is good news for Cyclone fans.
– However, two freshmen were Michigan’s second and third leading scorers last season and they’ll likely be able to fill Morris’ void. Tim Hardaway Jr. averaged 13.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while fellow rookie Jordan Morgan averaged 9.2 points and 5.4 boards. At 6-foot-5, Hardaway is a tough guy to guard. (Just ask Iowa. Hardaway Jr. went off for 30 at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 19 last season.)
– The Wolverines have plenty of depth. A guy like sophomore Evan Smotrycz has the ability to come off the bench and make a difference. Smotrycz proved that in last year’s tournament, scoring 13 points against Duke in only 14 minutes of play.
– Carlton Brundidge, a top 100 member of Michigan’s 2011 recruiting class, will likely see meaningful minutes as a freshman.