I know it’s early, and we should revisit this in a month, but the conference season starts tomorrow so we might as well briefly consider what we’re expecting at this point. A few considerations:
-We skip @Nebraska, @OSU, and @PU.
-We don’t get Illinois or Rutgers at home.
-We are favored by Barttorvik in every game except @MSU, with @Wiscy a virtual tossup. I’d consider @IU a tossup at best too, with @Northwestern and @Iowa the next toughest.
Torvik’s expected record for us is 15-5. That seems kinda right to me. I’d be surprised if we didn’t win at least 13 games, and, barring injury, anything less than 14 would actually be a little disappointing. Conversely, there are a lot of solid teams in the conference, and we likely will have off-shooting nights, perhaps especially against a zone, or miss a bunch of free throws, or come up on a team on fire, so 3 or 4 losses seems highly probable.
Should be in fine shape to have a shot at the regular season title. MSU has a couple losses and seems to have a pretty tough road schedule this year but will be a factor. Based on schedules and early season results, I might put Wiscy as the top threat right now. Nebraska could be right there, and hard to know exactly what to make of IU and PU, but they could be in thick of things too.
There’s really no gauntlet Michigan will have to face during Big Ten play either. Toughest string of games is probably @Wis, vs. Minny, @Indiana, vs. OSU and then @Iowa. Then the last four are mentally taxing and tough as well.
Still, no brutal consecutive games or a crazy stretch of road games. They should have an opportunity to bounce back and get right throughout that schedule navigation.
I think 15-5 is our absolute floor. I think we’ll have a season very much like Virginia did in the ACC last year. They were good, though not lights-out on offense, but their defense just had them winning night after night. Our D is head and shoulders above anyone else’s in the conference.
I agree there are a lot of quality teams, but I’m not sure the league is like it was a few years ago when you had Matta, Ryan, Izzo, Crean, Painter, and Beilein all at or near the peak of their powers. A lot of good teams, but maybe not many great ones. So if there is one, say, maybe Michigan, that team could potentially dominate.
This is pretty key, to me. Skipping road trips to 3 of the top 6 teams (not counting Michigan) is a really nice way to decrease the chances of a total road clunker against decent competition (Last year had @ Nebraska, OSU, and NW even though NW was mostly terrible). That’s three more games where an off night probably isnt enough to lose us the game, especially with the every-game floor that our defense provides.