Michigan Healthier Welcoming in Wisconsin

Michigan’s schedule only gets harder as the Wolverines move forward in the Big Ten, beginning with a Saturday night home tilt with No. 6 Wisconsin. John Beilein discusses the health of his team and looks at a very deep Badgers’ group.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan passed its first test since losing star junior Caris LeVert for the season to foot surgery, a Tuesday night 54-50 road win against Rutgers.

But Saturday poses a far different and greater challenge.

With No. 6 Wisconsin (17-2, 5-1) now heading to Crisler Center Saturday night, the young Wolverines (12-7, 5-2) will have its hands full against one of the Big Ten’s best.

“Excited to be playing a team of the magnitude of Wisconsin,” Michigan coach John Beilein said Friday. “The magnitude of the coaching staff at Wisconsin is tremendous, the players, the culture and the way they run the program.

“It’s great to have them in the building and even better not to have to go to Madison and play them.”

Before Michigan can even think about dealing with the multi-talented Wisconsin big Frank Kaminsky or budding star in Sam Dekker, the Wolverines are focusing its attention on themselves.

Battling injuries and illnesses for a week now, it appears Michigan is nearly 100-percent.

“Yesterday we had D.J. Wilson full go the whole practice,” Beilein said. “Duncan Robinson was full go for the first time in two weeks so that gave us a better scout team.

“The only one we held back a little bit was Derrick Walton because the toe, the foot hurts a little bit and because of the toe we’re just trying to manage him through this.”

With a full squad out on the practice floor, including Spike Albrecht who was able to play 32-minutes Tuesday, Michigan installed the game plan, hoping it works against the Badgers.

“We had a good day of practice yesterday,” Beilein said. “It’s an incredible challenge but it’s also an opportunity. They’re very efficient offensively and they’ve always, they haven’t changed one bit defensively with just a lock down defense.

The two big challenges will be stopping them, which we didn’t do very well here last year, and then obviously scoring the basketball.”

This isn’t the Wisconsin of old, the Badgers coming into this one with three players averaging more than 12.5 points per game, the team shooting nearly 50-percent from the field to average 73.8 points per game.

On the other side, Michigan’s offense is going through a transition period with the loss of LeVert.

Freshman Aubrey Dawkins is likely to make his second straight start at the four position, but others must step-up to fill the void left by the Ohio native.

“We have to redefine who we are when you lose a guy like Caris who, you play though him, a number of passes came through him, there’s a lot that we have to change because if Aubrey replaces him he doesn’t have that same skill set yet,” Beilein said.

“We’ll do what we can do, and hang in there as long as we can, and if you hang in there as long as you can you might be able to win it.”

Regardless, both teams and even ESPN is hoping for a good game with the College Gameday crew in Ann Arbor, something that should only add to the atmosphere at Crisler.

“I think it speaks a lot about the Michigan brand and who we are and there will be great interest in the University of Michigan playing a great University of Wisconsin,” Beilein said. “It’s great, it’s exciting for our students and these opportunities don’t come that often.

“How many times have we had them here? Just once before two years ago so, it’s a rare opportunity to get it and it’s exciting to have them here.”

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