Michigan basketball vs. UNC Asheville: How to watch, keys, and a prediction

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Michigan basketball will tip off its 2023-24 season tonight against UNC Asheville and here’s how to watch, keys, and a prediction. 

While “sign gate” has been a heavy topic of conversation, Wolverines fans can get distracted by something else tonight as Michigan basketball opens its season against UNC Asheville.

The Bulldogs were 27-8 a season ago. They also won the Big South and played in the NCAA tournament — something the Wolverines didn’t do.

Juwan Howard won’t be on the bench. He’s still recovering from heart surgery so Phil Martelli will handle things. Here’s how to watch, the keys to victory, and a prediction.

Michigan basketball vs. UNC Asheville How to watch

Date: Nov. 7
Game Time: 8:30 PM EST
Venue: Crisler
How to Watch: Big Ten Network | Fubo TV

Michigan basketball keys to victory

  • Contain Drew Pember: The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 21 points and nine rebounds last season for the Bulldogs and he’ll be the focal point tonight. Pember shot 50 percent on 2-pointers as well as 38 percent from deep. He also attempted 9.1 free throw attempts per game last season and it will be interesting to see if Olivier Nkamhoua or Tarris Reed gets the assignment. Either way, Reed needs to avoid foul trouble and the Wolverines need to do their best to keep Pember off the line. He’ll probably score 20 points but if the Wolverines can keep him under 50 percent and off the line, it will be a win.
  • Efficient point guard play: Dug McDaniel is running the show again this year and we’ll see how big a leap he’s made. He was 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the Wolverines exhibition win and if he can maintain that this season, he’ll be deadly. Dug took too many long twos last season. He also needs to improve his defense and I’ll be watching for signs of his growth in this first game. McDaniel and the ball-screen game will probably be the focal point so I’m interested to see what that looks like.
  • Attack the rim: Asheville ranked 147th last season in 2-point defense. Pempber is the tallest player on the roster and also averaged 2.4 blocks per game. That’s in the Big South though. Michigan is a Big Ten team and the Wolverines need to get the ball inside. Michigan used the offseason to upgrade its athleticism and Nkamhoua is a big part of that. Tarris Reed and Nkamhoua should both be able to score inside. U-M needs solid efforts from Tray Jackson and Terrance Williams too, plus Nimari Burnett. But if Michigan is going to win, it’s going to need to take home the 2-point battle.

Michigan vs. UNC Asheville prediction

The Wolverines are a 10.5-point favorite according to DraftKings. UNC Asheville has four players back who started games last season and they are all fifth-year guys. Michigan is playing its first game with nearly a brand-new starting five, so there could be some growing pains.

But McDaniel, Nkamhoua, and Reed will be too much for the Bulldogs. The bigs will do a solid job on Pember and Dug will have a dynamic night to kick off his sophomore season.

Michigan wins but I can see the Bulldogs covering.

Next. 5 reasons to be optimistic about Michigan basketball. dark

Score prediction: Michigan 75, UNC Asheville 67