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W. Michigan-Michigan Preview

Up until the start of 2019, the Michigan basketball team will experience a schedule that will be more what the football team at the school is used to.

After playing five games in 16 days, the No. 5-ranked Wolverines are in the midst of a stretch of playing four games over a span of 22 days, all of them at home.

The first was an 89-78 win over South Carolina last Saturday.

Next up is a 2 p.m. game this Saturday against in-state rival Western Michigan.

For a team like red-hot Michigan that is off to a 10-0 start, it would seem that the light game schedule wouldn't be helpful since the Wolverines are in such a good groove.

But Michigan head coach John Beilein actually doesn't mind the stretch one bit because it allows for valuable practice time, where younger players can be further developed and lineups can further be experimented with before Big 10 play resumes in January.

"I don't think it can hurt us at all," Beilein said on the Inside Michigan Basketball radio show this week. I'm sure our guys would love to play. But there are times their body needs to refuel. We have to refocus on what winning looks like."

That last sentence seems remarkable, given all Michigan has done of late is win.

Dating back to last year, Michigan has won 24 out of its last 25 games and has beaten all of its opponents except one - a 62-60 win at Northwestern - by double digits.

However, Beilein insists improvements must be made.

"We have to win on the road," said Beilein, even though his team has won at Villanova and Northwestern this year. "We have to win against good teams coming up. The Big 10 is a monster as you can see. We have a lot to do."

The next challenger for the Wolverines is Western Michigan, which also has had a break from game action.

The Broncos will be playing just their third game in the month of December when they visit Ann Arbor.

Western Michigan is 5-4 on the season and is coming off an 88-77 win at Youngstown State last Saturday.

The Broncos have a premier post presence down low in senior 7-foot center Seth Dugan, who is averaging 17.7 points and 10.1 rebounds a game so far this season.

Senior guard Josh Davis is averaging 13.7 points a game and sophomore guard Michael Flowers is averaging 13.6 points a game to flank Dugan so far this year for Western Michigan.

"One of the things that makes it difficult to prepare for them is that the best game plan going in involves different things in different situations," Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins said. "You can go under ball screens on certain guys and go over ball screens on other guys. There are some situations you would like to switch in, and other situations you don't want to switch at all.

"For a team like ours that's very young in nature, to try and decipher through all that information while the game is going on against a team that executes as well as Michigan does, it's very difficult."

Updated December 14, 2018

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