No. 18 Michigan opens season against Ferris State

The 18th-ranked Michigan Wolverines will take on the little known Ferris State Bulldogs this evening in the season opener for both teams.

While one should never put too much stock in an exhibition game, the fact that Ferris State recently lost to Calvin College doesn't bode well for the Bulldogs' chances against Michigan tonight. A Division II team that competes in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Bulldogs are led by Bill Sall, who is entering his 10th season at the helm. Last season, the club finished 24-8 overall, but four starters from that team are gone.

In Michigan's lone preseason outing, it managed a mere 47 points against Wayne State, but the team did limit the opposition to 39 points by playing tremendous defense. Coach John Belein enters his fifth season in Ann Arbor, and the hope is his talented cast of players will continue the progression shown recently by elevating Michigan to the status of perennial Big Ten contender. Last year, the Maize and Blue went 21-14, but finished an even 9-9 in conference, and many key contributors from that team have moved on.

The lone returning starter for Ferris State is guard Dontae Molden, a 5-11 senior who will be expected to lead both on and off the court. He netted just 5.0 ppg in 2010-11, however, so it is unreasonable to expect huge production from him. Kenny Brown scored 9.2 ppg off the bench as a sophomore, and the junior is now back as the team's leading returning scorer. Those two players have the tall task of attempting to the fill the giant voids left by the departure of Justin Keenan and Darien Gay. They combined for 36.2 ppg, and Keenan (21.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg) was one of the truly elite players at the D-II level. Among the large group of newcomers, guard Dietrich Lever and swingman Matt Sinnaeve appear most capable of stepping right in to provide some offensive punch.

Michigan's Tim Hardaway, Jr. averaged 13.9 points and 3.8 caroms per contest as a freshman a year ago, and there is no doubt that he is now the go-to guy at the offensive end of the court. Another guy coming off a solid freshman season is Jordan Morgan (9.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), and he and Hardaway Jr. have the skill set to drive the Wolverines all season long. Additionally, Michigan is fortunate to have a pair of senior leaders ready to go into battle, as guards Zach Novak (8.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Stu Douglass (7.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg) bring grit and determination to the court more so than off-the-chart ability or athleticism. Rebounding and consistent offensive production will be the key to UM's season as it was outboarded by nearly two caroms per contest, and scored just over 66 ppg last year.