<
>
Insider

Three keys vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

12/13/2011

This will be a little bit different for Michigan.

After three weeks of high-quality competition against teams from major conferences or extremely talented mid-majors, the Wolverines will have a lower-conference opponent Tuesday night in Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The Golden Lions have an interesting tale: They have yet to play at home this season. So far UAPB has traveled from Stillwater, Okla., to Tulsa, Okla. to Auburn, Ala., then Colorado Springs, Colo. and now Ann Arbor, Mich.

Thus far, the Lions have won onlyonce -- knocking off the Isiah Thomas-led Florida International Panthers.

So while Michigan should win Tuesday, here are three keys to make that happen:

Don't get complacent

There have been times this season -- and in earlier years during the Zack Novak/Stu Douglass era of Michigan basketball -- where the Wolverines have played up or down to their level of competition. Good teams, especially ones that want to play long into March, don't do that. So far this season, Michigan has played somewhat to the level of its competition -- struggling at points against Western Illinois and Ferris State and running with top 25-level teams Memphis, Virginia and Duke. This is a team that, in theory, Michigan should put away easily, allowing Wolverines coach John Beilein to tinker with his rotation leading into Big Ten play.

Watch out for Savalace Townsend

The 6-foot-1 guard from Long Beach, Miss., is Arkansas-Pine Bluff's best player. He averages 18.2 points a game along with four rebounds and three assists. The problem, though, is he has 20 turnovers to go with his 18 assists in six games. However, if Michigan allows him to get going, he could keep the Golden Lions in the game.

Keep guys rested

Beilein has said over the past two weeks that he tries to steal freshman point guard Trey Burke minutes of rest here and there. Providing the Wolverines do what is expected Tuesday, this is a game where Beilein could play Burke 30 minutes or less and start to develop Eso Akunne and Carlton Brundidge as backups for the emerging star. Plus, the Big Ten is a long season. Games like these where Michigan might be able to run more rotation and get more guys decent playing time could be key in February and March.