Michigan opens the preseason portion of its schedule on Thursday night against the Northern Michigan Wildcats. It will be the first chance to see the heralded freshman class in action even though the game won’t actually count for anything more than a tune up.
Northern Michigan is coming off a 9-17 season in which it finished in last place in the North division of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Only Ohio Dominican (in the South division) finished with a worse record.
Eight players return for the Wildcats including three starters. The leading returning starter is guard Haki Stampley, who led the team in minutes played (742), threes made (50), assists (47), and steals (34), and was second in scoring (14 points per game). However, he is redshirting this season. That leaves forward Matt Craggs as the leading returning scorer who will see the court. He averaged 8.8 points per game and also led the Wildcats in rebounding with 5.5 per game. Alongside Craggs in the frontcourt is TJ Cameron who averaged seven points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He was named the team’s MVP a year ago.
The backcourt will be handled by sophomores Quinten Calloway and Spencer Huss along with redshirt freshman Terry Nash. Calloway played in 16 games last season, averaging 6.9 points per game, while Hass was named the team’s most improved player.
The biggest unknown are three junior college transfers, Scooter Johnson (Kent State), Jeron Lee (Lewis), and Michael Smith (Grand Rapids Community College).
Northern Michigan likely won’t fare much better than last season and was picked to finish eighth in the GLIAC North division again this year. Head Coach Doug Lewis, in his third year at NMU, will have his work cut out for him to compete and his Wildcats shouldn’t put up much of a fight in the Crisler Center.
The Wildcats gave up 10 more points per game than Michigan did against lesser competition and didn’t shoot the ball very well either. They also averaged over 15 turnovers per game compared to just eight assists. Bad defense, poor shooting, and a terrible assist-to-turnover ratio is a recipe for disaster for any team and that’s what NMU had. Look for Michigan to light up the scoreboard with a big win as it prepares for the season opener next Friday night.