Michigan basketball fans remember the last meeting with Duke as a game that almost was. In the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament, Duke defeated Michigan 73-71 after a Darius Morris runner missed at the buzzer. The game showed the progress of a Michigan program that is headed in the right direction under John Beilein. However, it also left Wolverines fans wondering, “what-if?”
Michigan lost the game to Duke, and also lost their leader and point guard Morris, who left the program to go on a vacation called “The NBA”. With Morris, Michigan fans were expecting the team to take the next step. Without him, there were questions if the talented squad could keep its momentum and continue to improve.
After four games thus far, the Wolverines sit at 4-0, with an impressive victory over Memphis under their belts. The Tigers came into the game ranked #8, but Michigan was able come out on top, 73-61. Sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. led the team with 21 points while freshman Trey Burke chipped in 15.
Burke has been handed the reigns of the Wolverine offense by Beilein, and he has responded well so far. While he lacks the size and strength of Morris, Burke is very athletic and a dangerous shooter. If Burke continues to develop and can find ways to get shooters like Zack Novak and Evan Smotrycz open looks, Michigan could be very dangerous.
The Wolverines, currently ranked #15, will face a stiff test against the #6 Blue Devils. Duke has a talented freshman guard of their own in highly-touted Austin Rivers. The son of NBA player and current Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, the freshman has looked impressive so far this season and could be a tough matchup for Michigan’s guards. Duke’s size inside could also pose a problem for Michigan, as forwards Jordan Morgan and Al Horford will have to deal with nearly twenty-one feet of Plumlee near the basket.
Michigan will face Duke tonight at 6pm CST (2 pm Maui time) at the Maui Invitational.