Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Hogs ready for a hornet’s nest
Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr., (10) dunks the ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Western Michigan, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Michigan’s men’s basketball team is looking to open a season with nine victories for the first time since winning the 1989 national championship.
Arkansas will be standing in the No. 3 Wolverines’ path at 11 a.m. today in Crisler Arena, trying to beat a top 5-ranked team on the road for the first time in 14 years. The Razorbacks last did it when they won at No. 4 Kentucky en route to winning their 1994 national championship.
Today also marks the first true road game for Arkansas (4-3), and Michigan is 20-1 at home the past two years. The only loss was to Purdue last season.
“I think it is one of the ultimate challenges,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. “You’re playing against a top three team, a team that could be in the Final Four, and you’re having to go to their place to play them.”
Arkansas is returning the second game of a home-and home series after the Razorbacks beat the then-No. 20 Wolverines 66-64 in Walton Arena last season.
“It will be like going into a hornet’s nest,” Anderson said. “Or a Wolverines’ nest, I guess. But our guys are looking forward to it.”
Michigan Coach John Beilein said the Wolverines have a feel for Arkansas’ style after playing at Walton Arena last season and falling behind 29-10 as the Razorbacks hit their first 11 shots.
“They’re going to bring a quickness and an intensity to the game that is tough to match, tough to simulate in practice,” Beilein said. “We’re going to have to really be ready to play 40 minutes of basketball. There’s going to be no letup.
“They take you out of everything you’re doing and say, ‘OK, now what are you going to do?’ We’ve got to find those answers.”
Beilein said the Wolverines used four players on offense against five on defense during portions of practice this week to try and get ready for Arkansas’ defensive pressure.
“The sweet spot for a game like this is how much do you practice today to get ready for their pressure without wear-wearing your own guys out?” Beilein said. “We’ve got to save energy, but we’ve still got to simulate what we’re going to see in the game.”
Michigan’s starting lineup includes the sons of former NBA stars Tim Hardaway and Glenn Robinson. Junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is averaging 15.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and freshman forward Glenn Robinson III is averaging 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds.
“They have more than just those two guys,” Anderson said. “That’s the thing that’s scary about Michigan.”
The scariest Wolverine may be sophomore point guard Trey Burke, who is averaging a team-high 17.0 points and a Big Ten-leading 7.1 assists. He had 13 points and 6 assists in 39 minutes against the Razorbacks last season and had a three-point attempt go off the rim at the buzzer that would have won the game.
“I think a lot of things are really dictated by his play,” Anderson said. “He’s a guy that has unbelievable range, but more than that he can get into the cracks of the defense. He finds the shooters, and they spread that floor. He’s got a great feel for the game.”
Michigan junior forward Jordan Morgan scored 16 points at Arkansas last season and made 7 of 11 shots.
“They had a lot of energy coming into that game, so we’ve got to be ready for that same type of effort,” Morgan said. “They had a great crowd there, and it’s definitely going to help to have Crisler behind us.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and they really thrive off of that to generate momentum, so we’ve got to be able to control our tempo throughout the game.”
Arkansas got balanced scoring in beating Michigan last season from sophomores BJ Young (15 points) and Hunter Mickelson (11) and juniors Mardracus Wade (12) and Rickey Scott (11). All four could play key roles again today, and the Razorbacks also have junior forward Marshawn Powell, who missed the Michigan game last year after sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
Powell is averaging 16.1 points and had a career-high 33 in the Razorbacks’ 81-78 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
“I think Powell is the best power forward we’ve seen all year,” Beilein said. “We’ve seen some pretty good ones, whether it was against Kansas State, Pitt, North Carolina State. I think he’s as good as anybody we’ve seen if not better.”
Arkansas at No. 3 Michigan
WHEN 11 a.m. Central today WHERE Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.
RECORDS Arkansas 4-3; Michigan 8-0 SERIES Tied 3-3 TELEVISION CBS RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Sports, Pages 21 on 12/08/2012