So Michigan Wolverines are off to a 2-0 start early this season with wins over Michigan Tech and Northeastern in the first two rounds of 2K Sports Classic Tournament.
UM is feeling a bit better about itself after finishing 10-22 in Beilein's first season last year, but it also knows a win against the likes of UCLA would mean much more come March than either of its first two triumphs.
And win or lose, the Wolverines will either face No. 10 Duke or
Southern Illinoison Friday night.
"We all know that this is a big game, a big game to go out and make a name for the team and get your respect," Harris said. "You live for games like this and we've got the opportunity, so it's big.
Of course it will not be the first time Harris and Sims are taking on our Ben Ball warriors. They gave us a fight last season leading us 27-24 at half time in
Last year, UCLA scored 25 points in transition;
struggled to defend Collison's quickness. The Wolverines were out-rebounded 36-18 and gave up 11 offensive rebounds - numbers Beilein knows his team can't afford Thursday. Michigan
But a year of working under Beilein's system has also changed
's perspective. Michigan
While pointing to the positive remnants of last year's meeting, Beilein also senses a new comfort level, adding to what he believes is a better-shooting team.
"I think our kids will have a little more belief in themselves as they go in there," Beilein said. "At the same time (because of last year), I think UCLA would never take us lightly."
The Wolverines are confident if they build on their progress while not falling some familiar pitfalls, remaining within striking distance of the Bruins is possible.
"The biggest challenge is us not beating ourselves," Harris said.
So who is going to guard Harris? I am not sure how much time DC is going to spend guarding him because of the height advantage Harris (6-5) enjoys over DC. He might be took quick for JS. So, I think it might be that JH will get a major portion of Howland’s defensive assignment against Harris on Thursday night, which could be a tough situation for our talented freshman. It will be very interesting to see how Howland defends Manny out of the gate.
As for defending Sims, he is going to be a challenge for JK and rest of his front court team-mates. From what I have read on our first two games, JK has had a very so so start. This will be the game for him to step up and make a difference starting on the defensive side and making sure he is getting his share of the rebounds and maintaining presence down low.
I think the key will be how much defensive pressure DC, JS, JH, and ML will be able to generate on Harris and his backcourt mates. If they can force Harris to get out of rhythm and force the action, it will bode well for us. Can’t wait to find out how prepared our young guys are against a hungry, rebuilding program on Thursday night. Hope they are ready.