A healthier Michigan won’t get much time to prepare for some early season tests but its next game would appear to provide an appropriate increase in competition from its opener.
Because of a pair of surprising losses last season, the 25th-ranked Wolverines acknowledge that they can’t take Monday night’s visit from Elon for granted.
Michigan faces Xavier at home Friday, then begins its run in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas against No. 20 Connecticut on Nov. 25. The Musketeers received votes in the Top 25 this week, as did North Carolina State – the Wolverines’ opponent in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 1.
"You’ve got a blockbuster stretch ahead of you," coach John Beilein said he told his players. "It’s really important that we can be as ready as possible for that."
Michigan appears in much better shape to face those games with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. back from foot injuries that kept them out for the final two months of 2014-15. Spike Albrecht also played 17 minutes in Friday’s 70-44 win over Division II Northern Michigan as he tries to ease into action following offseason hip surgery.
Zak Irvin, second on the team with 14.3 points per game in 2014-15 behind Levert with 14.9, sat out because he’s still working toward getting into game shape following back surgery.
LeVert had a team-best 18 points and five assists while Aubrey Dawkins contributed 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, more than double his scoring average of 7.0 as a freshman. The Wolverines also outshot the Wildcats 51.9 percent to 33.3.
"We’re all still knocking off some jitters, knocking off some rust," LeVert said. "But I think our defense is up to par right now. As soon as our offense catches up, and it will soon, I think we’ll be a really good team."
Michigan was relatively healthy when it lost to New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan in back-to-back home games in December, a memory still fresh in Beilein’s mind.
"The lesson we learned last year is you can’t look past anything because you win a couple games because you’ve got to be ready for the next game," he said. "You don’t play well and you can lose to any team that you play on this schedule, if you do not come with the right attitude."
Elon heads into its first matchup with Michigan off an 85-74 win at Charlotte in its opener Friday. Sophomore guard Dmitri Thompson had a career-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting – more than triple his scoring average from his first season (6.1) – and eight rebounds.
The Phoenix are 0-21 against ranked opponents and lost 75-62 in their only such matchup last season, at No. 2 Duke on Dec. 15.