Could Titans upset UM? Rashad says yes

The Titans defended the Hall – as in Calihan Hall – by stomping all over Rochester College of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Friday night, 77-54.

Doesn’t say much about the Titans, right?

It doesn’t and that’s because – no offense to Rochester College – the meat of the Titans’ regular-season schedule kicked off against Oregon on Nov. 17 and continues on Nov. 20 at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor when the Titans face John Beilein and the Michigan Wolverines.

Beilein and his squad of 11 underclassmen – no seniors – come into the season ranked the 23rd best team in the nation, according to the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

It’s the second time Beilein has had to get ready for the Ray McCallum-led Titans since he took over as UM head man in 2007.

Beilein’s Wolverines first took on McCallum and Detroit on Dec. 13, 2009, in Ann Arbor.

Before Michigan’s 75-64 win over the Titans on that day, Detroit had last played against the Wolverines in 1999, when former UM assistant Perry Watson roamed the Calihan Hall sidelines. That time they lost 66-62 to a starting five that included Jamal Crawford, two-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

The likes of Titan Hall of Famer Rashad Phillips and current Orlando Magic shooting guard Willie Green were vital members of the Watson-led UDM squad that took on Crawford and the Wolverines.

In the decade-plus since, leadership duties have been passed along from fellow high-impact guards Ray McCallum and Jason Calliste to this year’s veteran duo of Juwan Howard, Jr., and Carlton Brundidge, who played 15 games his freshman year under Beilein before making the switch to “Detroit’s college team.”

Now, they’ll be expected to help Detroit beat the University of Michigan for only the fifth time in program history.

The Titans trail 23-4 in the all-time series and haven’t knocked off Ann Arbor’s college team since the 1981-82 season when UDM was still known as U of D.

Is the upset possible?

Phillips, a two-time Horizon League Player of the Year during his heyday as a UDM student-athlete, thinks so.

“I feel the Titans can match up with UM’s quickness on the perimeter,” said Phillips, the Titans’ all-time leading scorer. “(Paris) Bass will have to match (Caris) LeVert’s intensity on both ends.”

Bass, a Birmingham Seaholm product, is a lanky six-foot-seven guard who could pose matchup problems for the opposition all season long due to his height, which makes him a hard man to cover for smaller guards and a difficult guy to stay in front of for big men who are not the most fleet of foot.

With his ability to also play the forward position, he’ll receive the task of guarding opponents’ tallest and most athletic “wing” players on a nightly basis.

The junior LeVert, a six-foot-seven guard who does his greatest amount of damage on the perimeter – he shot 40.8 percent from 3-point range and ranked third on UM with 60 triples last season – is a challenging assignment for Bass in his first road contest as a collegiate player.

The key to the Titans pulling off the upset against the 2013-14 second-team all-Big Ten selection and company is going to be which team can win the rebounding battle, according to Phillips.

It will be a major point of importance in this non-conference clash for the Titans, especially if they can limit LeVert and the rest of UM’s 3-point shooting.

Their ability to outrebound the Wolverines is dependent upon the play of junior center Pat Ackerman – eligible to play for the first time since transferring from Penn State at the conclusion of the 2012-13 campaign – and upon the board-crashing ability of super-athletic senior forward Patrick Onwenu and newcomer Youssoupha Kane, a junior college transfer from Western Nebraska and a native of Thies, Senegal.

With rebounding from those three Titan big men, plus contributions from Bass and upperclassmen like Howard and Brundidge on the glass, the Titans could outrebound the thin and undersized (no one above six-foot-nine) frontcourt of the Wolverines.

If so, the Titans could deliver a season-defining victory that would undoubtedly make them the early-season favorite to win the Horizon League.

The “Voice of the Titans,” 97.1 The Ticket’s Dan Leach, believes the game serves as an opportunity for this year’s squad to make a statement.    

Although of the same mindset, I’m not bold enough to predict such a victory with it being so early in the season for a Titans squad that features six underclassmen and only three seniors, one being Arizona State transfer Brandan Kearney.

However, a much braver man than me in Rashad Phillips did just that by picking the Titans to prevail in Thursday’s regional round of the Legends Classic, 63-59.

Nonetheless, make sure to tune-in to the action from Crisler on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.



n Vito Chirco, VN sports editor (yours truly): UM 67, Detroit 61

n Perry Farrell, Detroit Free Press sports writer: UM 75, Detroit 59

n Karic Jones, CST Radio play-by-play announcer: Detroit 67, UM 62

n Curtis Pulliam, former VN sports editor (now of the Vindicator in Youngstown, Ohio): UM 85, Detroit 66

n Dan Leach, “Voice of the Titans” (of 97.1 The Ticket): UM 86, Detroit 78