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Following an 86-44 destruction of Presbyterian College, No. 11 Michigan has an opportunity to escape an arduous December with an even 3-3 record when it hosts UMass Lowell in its last contest of the 2019 calendar year. The brief two-game respite against low major squads was much needed for a reeling Wolverine squad coming off seven-straight game against top 50 foes, losing three of the last four.

The schedule does not get any easier next month, with U-M beginning 2020 on the road against a Michigan State squad that has won four-consecutive games. Michigan’s first four contests in the new year are considered Tier A games by KenPom, and every one of its remaining games except for a March 5 home meeting with Nebraska are considered either Tier A or Tier B bout.

In KenPom’s rating system, Tier A signifies a game against a top 50 opponent, adjusting for the location of the game and the resulting home-court advantage. Tier B games represent matchups with top 100 challengers.

As it currently stands, the Wolverines have a total of 16 Tier A and nine Tier B games on their schedule—they are currently 3-3 against Tier A competition and 2-0 against Tier B. Last season, U-M played 14 Tier A games during the regular season, winning nine, and were victorious in all eight regular-season Tier B tilts.

Michigan’s next five opponents possess a combined 37-23 record, with UMass Lowell the only squad below .500 on the season. In addition to a clash with Spartans, the Wolverines battle two teams in Minnesota and Purdue that boast a top-10 upset this season, and a revenge-seeking Iowa squad that has triumphed in three-consecutive games by an average of 14.3 points since losing at Crisler Center earlier this month.

Here is a closer look at U-M’s next five games, as well as an overview of the results from past opponents over the last week.

Michigan’s Next Five Opponents

Combined Record: 37-23

Dec. 29: vs UMass Lowell (6-7)

Jan. 5: at No. 15 Michigan State (9-3, 2-0)

Jan. 9: vs Purdue (7-5, 1-1)

Jan 12: at Minnesota (6-5, 1-1)

Jan. 17: at Iowa (9-3, 1-1)

Dec. 29 - vs UMass Lowell (6-7):

UMass Lowell dropped under the .500 mark with a 74-62 loss to Boston University Dec. 21, and are now 6-7 heading into their Dec. 29 matchup with the Wolverines. The River Hawks shot just 31.3% from the field against BU, their lowest shooting percentage of the season, and were held under 70 points for only the fourth time in 13 games.

UML’s success defensively has been predicated on its ability to inhibit opposing three-point shooters. The River Hawks have held four of their last five opponents under 30.0% from beyond the arc, and are limiting foes to 23.3% three-point shooting in six victories this season. In its seven losses, the opposition is hitting 36.5% of its three-point tries.

Jan. 5 - at No. 15 Michigan State (9-3, 2-0):

No .15 Michigan State trounced Eastern Michigan 101-48 Dec. 21 to extend its win streak to four games. Following a dreadful three-point shooting slump to start the month of December—a three-game stretch in which MSU hit just 18 of 70 three-point attempts (25.7%)—it has found its from from deep its last two contests, making 24 of its last 51 deep-ball tries (47.0 percent).

During this four-game win streak, sophomore guard Gabe Brown is averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and a 121.5 Offensive Rating (ORtg). His 123.0 ORtg on the season is fifth-best in the Big Ten among qualifying players.

Jan. 9 - vs Purdue (6-3, 1-0):

Purdue has gone 2-2 in the four games following its 19-point upset over No. 9 Virgina, including a 70-56 loss to lowly Nebraska Dec. 15 and a 70-61 home defeat by No. 17 Butler Dec. 21. During this four-game stretch, the Boilermakers are scoring only 61.0 points per game and have been plagued by three sub-40% shooting performances. PU’s 64.5 Adjusted Tempo is the second-slowest in the Big Ten and ranks 340th in the country, according to KenPom, it has not given up more than 70 points in a game this season.

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Junior center Matt Haarms, who is averaging 10.8 points and 6.2 boards this year, missed the last two games recovering from a concussion.

Jan. 12 - at Minnesota (6-5, 1-1):

A Gopher team that looked average throughout most of the early season enjoyed a potentially transformative week with an 84-71 home upset of No. 5 Ohio State Dec. 15 and thorough 86-66 dispatching Oklahoma State 86-66 on the road Dec. 21. Winners in three of its last four, Minnesota has logged a 60.0 or better Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) three times and has limited three opponents to an eFG% of under 50.0 during this stretch. UM is 5-1 and averaging 79.3 points per game in Minneapolis this season, but has won just one game and scored more than 70 points once in five tries on the road or at neutral sites.

Sophomore center Daniel Otoru is averaging 18.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, and ranks second in the Big Ten with a 67.3 eFG%, third with a 10.6 Block Percentage (Blk%), and fourth with a 25.5 Defensive Rebound Percentage (DR%).

Jan. 12 - at Iowa (9-3, 1-1):

When the Hawkeyes welcome Michigan to Iowa City Jan. 12, they will be without the services of senior point guard Jordan Bohanon. The school’s all-time leading three-point shooter, Bohanon underwent a hip surgery on Dec. 19 that will keep him out of action for the remainder of the season. Freshman Joe Toussaint started for the Hawkeyes in a 77-70 win over Cincinnati Dec. 21, but committed two turnovers in the first four minutes, and was benched for the remainder of the game. Fifth-year senior Bakari Evelyn claimed a majority of the remaining time at the one-spot, contributing 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Michigan’s Last Five Opponents:

Combined Record: 40-20

Presbyterian (W, 86-44): 2-10

No. 8 Oregon (L, 71-70 OT): 10-2

Illinois (L, 71-62): 8-4 (1-1)

Iowa (W 103-91): 9-3 (1-1)

No. 3 Louisville (L 58-43): 11-1

Presbyterian (W, 86-44):

Michigan was the third opponent to score 80 or more points on Presbyterian in its last three games. Seven of the Blue Hose’s 10 losses have been by double-digits, five by 20 or more points and two by at least 30. Of PC opponent field goal attempts this season, 46.1% have come from behind the arc, 8.4% higher than the national average of 37.7%. Not surprisingly, a season-high 50.9% percent of the Wolverines’ shot attempts were from three-point range against the Blue Hose.

No. 8 Oregon (L, 71-70 OT):

No. 8 Oregon barely escaped upset-minded Texas Southern 84-78 Dec. 21, a game in which they trailed with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, and fell behind by as much as 13 in the first half. The Ducks trounced Montana 81-48 Dec. 18, and are now 10-2 for the year.

During its current four-game win streak, UO is averaging 81.3 points per game and has scored more than 80 points three times. Senior point guard Payton Pritchard is averaging 21.5 points per game on a 76.0 eFG%, seven assists and four rebounds during this stretch.

Illinois (L, 71-62):

A sloppy second half against Missouri doomed Illinois in a 63-56 defeat Dec. 21, its second-consecutive loss in the annual Braggin’ Rights rivalry game. The Illini shot only 32.0% from the field, including 12.5% from behind the arc, committed nine turnovers and recorded zero assists in the last 20 minutes. Freshman center Kofi Cockburn registered a 95.0 ORtg in the contest, his first time being held under 100.0 in the metric in his last eight games.

Now 7-4 overall, UI is 1-3 in Tier A and Tier B games, according to KenPom, and have connected on an abysmal 19 of 76 three-point tries (25.0%) over its last five games.

Iowa (W, 103-91):

Since losing to Michigan 103-91 Dec. 6, Iowa has won three-consecutive contests by an average of 14.3 points. In these three games—all of which are considered either Tier A or Tier B wins by KenPom—the Hawkeyes have relied primarily on their defense, yielding 63.3 points per game, 24.0% shooting from three, and have limited foes to an average offensive efficiency rating of 89.4 that 10.7 points below the national average.

No. 3 Louisville (L, 58-43):

Despite a mammoth rivalry game matchup on the horizon against in-state rival Kentucky, No. 3 Louisville was able to channel its focus on Miami (OH) Dec. 18 in a dominating 70-46 Win. The Cardinal have won 10 games by double-digits this season, including six by at least 20 points, and their 18.3 scoring margin is the eighth-highest in the nation. In holding opponents to only 58.4 points per game (8th nationally) and a 40.4 eFG% (2nd nationally), UL has logged an 85.6 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Rating, the second-best in the country.

KenPom is predicting Michigan to go 3-2 over its next five games? How do you think the Wolverines will fare? Give us your prediction below!!!