ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Playing on the road is never easy. Especially when you’re traveling to Tobacco Road to play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
But that’s the case for Michigan (4-2) today, as the Wolverines are set to take on N.C. State (4-2) at 7 p.m. at PNC Arena.
And while the Wolfpack may lack depth, U-M coach John Beilein noted they certainly don’t lack star power, with Anthony “Cat” Barber leading the way, averaging 21.0 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game.
“Barber is good as point guard we are going to see,” Beilein said. “He doesn’t shoot from three. He hasn’t at least this year, last year he shot OK. But he is lighting quick, gets to the foul line like crazy.”
Beilein is right about that, Barber has made 66 free-throws at an 88.0 percent rate this season.
However, N.C. State is more than a one man show.
In fact, the Wolfpack look for scoring from Caleb Martin (15.7), Maverick Rowan (14.5) and Abdul-Malik Abu (12.0), who along with Barber, account for 63.2 points of the ‘Packs rotation that runs seven deep, which has the full attention of Beilein.
“Well, I see a seven man rotation that is really tight right now,” Beilein said. “Do they have depth? No. But do they have chemistry and symmetry? Absolutely.”
N.C. State will be U-M’s first true road game this season.
"First time, I don't care how many times guys have done it, the first time you go into it on the road it's always unique again,” Beilein said. “So it'll be a great environment and I think it'll be a great game."
Star guard Caris LeVert echoed his coach.
“Going to N.C. State this will be a huge game for us,” LeVert said. “This is our first real road game. So we are really looking forward to it.”
Coming back from off-season back surgery, Zak Irvin has been eased back into the lineup, playing in five of Michigan’s six games, starting four.
Irvin, who is averaging 6.8 points in 23.8 minutes per game, is slowly getting healthier but is still far from 100 percent, says Beilein.
“He’s still not back, but he’s getting better everyday,” Beilein said of Irvin, adding: “He’s getting closer and closer.”
U-M’s Rotation Moving Forward
“I think I sort of looked at seven guys today that I think we can really maneuver them around pretty well,” Beilein said. “Now, who are eight and nine is going to be interesting. I think Muhammad(-Ali Abdur-Rahkman) will definitely be in that eight (spot).”
Beilein noted that he plans on limiting Spike Albrecht’s minutes, who is coming off-seaosn hip surgery. He said he might play Albrecht in games, but he fully intends on saving him for the rigors of Big Ten play.