|Michigan Frosh Face First B1G Test Tonite|
Michigan will start its journey of winning back-to-back Big Ten championships tonight at Northwestern (7 PM EST, ESPN2). If the Wolverines are going to be successful, they'll need their current group of freshman to stay focused going forward in conference play.
With the win Saturday night against Central Michigan, 88-73, the Michigan basketball team concluded a perfect nonconference schedule for the first time since 1985-86.
A great accomplishment, no less.
But now, starts the real season: The Big Ten.
As the youthful Wolverines bring their lofty No. 2 ranking and inexperienced freshman into a conference that is considered the best in college basketball.
But even with all the pep talks and information provided, Michigan coach John Beilein says there is no amount of information that can help prepare his current core of freshman—Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Spike Albrecht-- for the rigors of Big Ten competition.
"We've been trying to tell them all year long," Beilein said. "but the defense is so terrific in the Big Ten. Look at the points we're scoring right now. It will be tough to match that. The intensity level, the coaching level, everything is just like as good as it gets. We've seen some good coaches already. The group we're ready to go against now, is the best of the best. And we got to be ready for a lot of things--and the players, obviously, are the best of the best. We can try to prepare them but nothing prepares them like being in it."
Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Trey Burke was the walking success story of Big Ten play last season. After all, he only helped lead the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 26 seasons. With that conference experience under his belt, Burkes says this year's freshman class wiliness to learn is an advantage for the Maize and Blue going forward.
"I think we are really focused," said Burke, who led the team with 22 points and 10 assists in Saturday's victory over CMU. "The inexperience we have, the freshman are doing a great job picking up and learning things at a high rate. So it goes to show how focused this team really is."
Robinson III, shot an efficient 9-of-13 from the field and finished with 20 points against Central Michigan, just one point off his career high. A starter since day one on campus, Robinson III says he's prepared to give the maximum effort needed to win in conference play.
"They say it's going to get tough," Robinson III said. "You never know what's going to happen. Every night you go out there you have to be ready to play a hard as you can, go out there and know your role. So I think that is going to very important for us, as long we keep staying with the team and continue to share the ball like we have."
With the upcoming challenges of Big Ten on the horizon, Stauskas says he welcomes the hectic atmosphere of playing on the road in the Big Ten with open arms.
"I am really excited," Stauskas said, who finished with 19 points, including 5-of-8 from behind the arc, against CMU's 1-3-1 zone defense Saturday. "because everyone is talking about how tough it's going to be. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
"I love playing road games. It's going to be a lot of fun," he added. And this Thursday against the Wildcats he and his fellow Wolverines will have the chance to prove it.