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December 1, 2012Max Bielfeldt, a native of Peoria, Ill., grew up attending games at Bradley's Carver Arena. He will return there Saturday at 4 p.m., when the Wolverines travel to play the Braves in their first true road game of the season.
And he knows just how amped the Braves get when Big Ten teams come to town.
Bielfeldt, a redshirt freshman forward, attended the Michigan State-Bradley game in 2007, when he was in high school.
"When a Big 10 teams comes to town, the fans definitely show up and the support definitely comes from all of Peoria," Bielfeldt said. "With us being the No. 3 team in the nation and the hype around us, for sure it's going to be a huge crowd and loud, like any other place we go to.
"It can be loud. I can remember the Michigan State game, and it was definitely loud. Not like an Indiana loud, but it was a cool [environment]."
The Drew Neitzel-led Spartans struggled all game, falling behind by nine late in the second half. But they went on a run and escaped with a 66-61 win.
They Wolverines know they'll have to bring their A-game to beat the Braves - as well as the environment.
Freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht will be playing in the first true road game of their young careers. Although Michigan has played Pitt and Kansas State in Madison Square Garden, coach John Beilein stressed that actually playing in an opponent's gym is a very different challenge.
In Friday afternoon's final tune-up practice, the Wolverines did several drills that will - hopefully - prepare the youngsters for a hostile environment.
"We have the screaming managers part today, where we'll play while managers are trying to distract us," Beilein said. "And we have to come out of there knowing the play. It's not my favorite part, but it is very indicative of what you face on the road, where you've got refs who want you to get out of the huddle; coaches who want to get to you one more time; a teammate trying to tell you something; and you have to focus on what the playcall is. And now you have 10,000 people screaming at you.
"There is no way to simulate it, truthfully, until the game, but we'll take an attempt at it today. And every day, we play with the music. I'd day two out of every three days, we have music going, and they can't hear each other at all."
In reality, the freshmen just have to get in there and gut out their first road test - and they will grow from there.
"They have to get in there and experience it," Beilein said. "Last year, we were at Virginia, and that game was right there and then all of a sudden, boom, it was away from us."
"Playing on the road, it's an individual thing," Bielfeldt added. "A lot of people handle it differently. I think the best way to handle it is to just explain to them what they'll see so they can expect it. When you score a basket and no one cheers, that's going to be the main difference, especially for the guys that bring a lot for energy and play off the crowd's energy. It's something they have to play through. But I think we're really a mature team for how young we are. I think we'll be fine."