Michigan takes to the road for the first time this season for an unusual road trip to a much smaller school, Bradley University. Michigan will be the highest-rated team ever to visit the school in Peoria, Ill and lost its only other trip there, back in 1997.
Bradley enters at 5-1 in its second season under Geno Ford. In his first, the Braves went just 7-25, including a 77-66 loss at Michigan. But this year, the team is much improve with five wins already compared to just one loss. However, those five wins have been to lesser opponents, Eastern Illinois, Texas-Pan American, IUPUI, Tennessee-Martin, and Central Michigan. The one loss was against the one major conference school they played, USF.
IUPUI is the common opponent between the two teams. Bradley beat them 79-72, while Michigan thumped them 91-54.
Averaging 76.3 points per game and a 47.1 field goal percentage, Bradley ranks 55th nationally in both categories. Ford runs an up-tempo offense that creates a lot of assists, but has resulted in a poor three-point shooting percentage at just 26.4.
Walt Lemon, Jr is the top scorer for the Braves, averaging 13.2 points per game to go along with 4.2 assists. He scored 19 against IUPUI. He’s very quick, but has made just 3-of-16 from three-point range so far this season. His backcourt mate is senior Dyricus Simms-Edwards who averages 10 points and 3.7 assists per game. He scored 14 against Central Michigan, just was held to just four against USF. His quick hands have forced an average of nearly three turnovers per game. Swingman Jake Eastman is probably the best shooter, having made 56.3 percent of his shots and 37.5 percent of his threes thus far.
Forward Tyshon Pickett ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.8 and leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game. He picked up a double-double against IUPUI with 18 points and 10 boards. He’s shooting nearly 54 percent from the field and will be a tough matchup for Glenn Robinson III.
Center Will Egolf is scoring 10 points per game and bringing in 6.2 rebounds. He has also shown the ability to step out and shoot the three, having connected on 6-of-14 so far this season. He has 10 blocks through six games, five of which came against IUPUI.
As you can see, all five starters average double digit points, but the Braves also have a couple of other capable scorers in backup big man Jordan Prosser and sophomore guard Jalen Crawford, who is the younger brother of former Xavier and current Washington Wizards guard Jordan as well as former Kentucky guard Joe.
Bradley won’t present the toughest matchup Michigan has faced this season, but it will be the first chance for the freshmen to experience adversity on an opposing court. Madison Square Garden was one thing, but it was a fairly pro-Michigan crowd. It will be interesting to see how Robinson, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, and Spike Albrecht perform on the road. Even though teams rated as high as Michigan don’t typically visit schools like Bradley, it’s a good early-season test to get their feet wet before hitting the road for tougher opponents once the Big Ten schedule begins.
Michigan should win this one, but I wouldn’t expect it to be the blowout we saw in the first few games of the season. Still, it should be a fairly comfortable win for Beilein’s crew.