Nothing But ‘Net – Week #05 – 11/28/2016 – Back Down To Earth

Quick Look

The (#25) University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they lost one and won one. On Wednesday (11/23/2016), Michigan lost at South Carolina 61-46, then on Saturday (11/26/2016), they beat Mount St. Mary’s 64-47 in Crisler Arena. The loss and the win leave Michigan with a record of 5-1.

What Happened

It was “back down to Earth” for Michigan. They had looked very good in their two wins the Championship Round of the 2K Classic two weeks ago, good enough that they cracked the AP Top-25. They went to Columbia (SC) for their first true away game, and they looked terrible.   They had their worst shooting game in 6 years, and they got blown out. They came back home and beat a decent Mount St. Mary’s team a few days later, but the damage was done. Hopefully, Michigan will learn from the South Carolina game, and grow as a team.

The USC game was close for a while, and Michigan led (for the last time) 23-22 with 6:49 left in the 1st half.   USC went on an 11-4 run to end the half up 6 points (33-27), and never looked back. Michigan got as close as 8 points (41-33) with 12:04 left in the game, but then USC pushed the lead back up to double digits, and Michigan never really challenged them again.

Michigan lost the USC game because of two things: poor shooting and turnovers. How bad was the shooting? Historically bad. UM shot 19.2% (10-for-52) overall, which is terrible, but much worse from 3-point range: 2-for-26 (7.7%).   Ugh. How bad were the turnovers? Michigan came into the game averaging 10 turnovers per game; they had 16 vs. USC. Here are the stats for the USC game.

The MSM game was much better. The score was close in the early going, and MSM led by 4 (12-8) with 16:33 left in the 1st half, when Michigan went on a 25-4 run to end the half up by 17 (33-16). Michigan let MSM hang around for most of the 2nd half, but finally put them away. The lead never got over 19 points, and got as low as 8 points, but UM answered every MSM run. Michigan shot much better in the MSM: 43.6% overall and 40.7% from 3-point range. They also cut down on their turnovers a little: only 12. Here are the stats for the MSM game.

Who Looked Good

Derrick Walton Jr. was the only Michigan player to hit double figures in both games, with 15 vs. USC and 12 vs. MSM.   Of course, he shot terribly vs. USC (3-for-14 overall, and 2-for-9 from 3-point range), but he was the leading scorer for Michigan.

Mark Donnal was the only other Michigan player in double figures in the ugly USC game, with 10 points. He had 6 vs. MSM. He played good defense in both games.

Moritz Wagner didn’t have a very good game vs. USC, with only 2 free throws in 16 minutes of action, but he did much better vs. MSM, with 13 points, including 3-for-5 shooting 3-pointers.

Zak Irvin also had a (very) bad game vs. USC, with only 5 points before he fouled out, but he also recovered nicely vs. MSM, with 14 points (and no fouls).

Who Looked Not-So-Good

DJ Wilson had a great tournament 2 weeks ago in New York, but he didn’t do much last week, with 2 points vs. USC and 5 points vs. MSM. He ran around a lot, and played some good defense, but he never seemed in sync with the rest of the team.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also had a quiet week: 7 and 5 points.

Duncan Robinson was another player who had a quiet week: 2 and 8 points.

Xavier Simpson played in both games, but only scored 2 points vs. USC and 1 point vs. MSM.

Ibi Watson played in both games, but only scored 1 point vs. USC and no points vs. MSM.

Who Else Played

Sean Lonergan and Jon Teske both played in the USC game, but failed to score.

Who Didn’t Play

Brent Hibbitts and Fred Wright-Jones didn’t play in either game.

The Big Picture

This season is turning into a rollercoaster.   Two weeks ago, before the 2K Classic, things looked pretty bleak, then the outlook was much sunnier after the tournament, and now things are back to bleak. Michigan looked very dysfunctional vs. USC, and not a lot better vs. MSM. Fortunately, there’s still time to get things straightened out.

What’s Next

This week Michigan plays two more games, both in Crisler Arena. On Wednesday (11/30/2016, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2), Michigan plays Virginia Tech, then on Saturday (12/03/2016, time TBA, TV TBA), Michigan plays Kennesaw State. The Virginia Tech game is part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and it will be tough.   The game vs. Kennesaw State   should be much easier.

Come on down to Crisler for the games, and check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #04 – 11/21/2016 – The 2K Classic Championship Games

Quick Look

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won both of them. These games were the championship round games for the 2K Classic, played in Madison Square Garden, in New York City. On Thursday (11/17/2016), Michigan beat Marquette 79-61, then on Friday (11/18/2016), they beat SMU 76-54. The two wins raise Michigan’s record to 4-0.

What Happened

Michigan didn’t look particularly good or sharp in either of the “Ann Arbor Regional” games in the first week of the season, against Howard and IUPUI, but they were a different team in NYC. They won both games comfortably, and they looked good and sharp and tough. Coach Beilein has had some good teams in his 10 years in Ann Arbor, including the 2012-2013 team that went to the National Championship game, but none of them were what you would call “tough”. They were more “finesse”. At least for the two games in the Garden, this season’s team played tough. They blocked shots, they took charges, they played tight defense, and they scrapped for loose balls. It was quite a change from previous teams.

The Marquette game started out as a close, see-saw battle, and was tied up 15-15 with 13:21 to go in the half. Three minutes later, Michigan was up by 10 (27-17), and five minutes after that, they were up by 20 (42-22). They led by 24 (50-26) at halftime, and never looked back. They did let Marquette get a little close (12 points: 67-55) with 5:30 left in the game, but they pushed the lead back up to 20 (77-57) in 3 minutes, and coasted to the win. It was very impressive. Here are the stats for the Marquette game.

SMU had beaten Michigan in Ann Arbor two years ago, and crushed them in Dallas last year, so this was a chance for Michigan to get some revenge, and they did. Michigan never trailed in this one, running out to a 9-point lead (13-4) in the first four minutes, and pushing it up to 19 points (44-25) at halftime. Once again, they let an opponent get a little close in the 2nd half (13 points: 44-31 with 19:10 to go), but they got the lead back up to 20 (53-33) in 3 minutes, and kept it there for the rest of the game, growing it to as many as 29 points. It was even more impressive than the Marquette win. Here are the stats for the SMU game.

Michigan shot well overall in both games (50.9% vs. Marquette, 52.9% vs. SMU), they shot 3-pointers well in both games (39.1% and 41.9%), and they shot free throws well in both games (80.0% and 81.8%). They outrebounded Marquette (35-27), but got hammered on the boards against SMU (24-41). They had an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers in the Marquette game, but only 4 vs. SMU. They also had 9 more blocked shots, 5 vs. Marquette and 4 vs. SMU.

Who Looked Good

Even though he only hit double figures in one game, DJ Wilson was the big story in this tournament. He had his first career double-double in the Marquette game, with 10 points and 12 rebounds. He was a little quieter vs. SMU, with 6 points and 4 rebounds, but he still played a team-high 36 minutes, and was a terror on defense. He started both games, and impressed with his play.

Derrick Walton Jr. had a very inconsistent tournament. He scored 0 points vs. Marquette, then led the team in scoring against SMU with 23 points, including 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range.

Zak Irvin had 16 points in each game, along with 7 and 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in each game. He still misses some easy shots, and takes too many long 2-point shots that could be 3-pointers if he would just move back a foot, but it’s hard to complain about the results. He was selected as the Most Valuable Player for the 2K Classic tournament.

Mark Donnal also only hit double figures in one game (15 points vs. Marquette), but he really provided a spark when he came in. He got close to double figures (9 points) vs. SMU, and played good defense in both games.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had double figures in both games (15 and 12), and had 4 rebounds in each game. He struggled a little with his 3-point shot (0-for-4 and 2-for-5), but he played some good defense.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Moritz Wagner didn’t have a very good tournament. He scored 9 points vs. Marquette, but he got in early foul trouble vs. SMU, and only scored 3 points in 11 minutes. He started both games, but Mark Donnal played more minutes than he did, and may take his starting position from him.

Duncan Robinson lost his starting job to DJ Wilson, and did OK coming off the bench. He had 10 points vs. Marquette, but only 2 points (on free throws) vs. SMU. It looked like he had finally found his 3-point stroke in the Marquette game, when he went 3-for-4, but then he went 0-for-2 vs. SMU, so we’re back to square one.

Xavier Simpson played in both games, but only scored one point, vs. SMU. He played 18 minutes in the Marquette game, when Walton got in early foul trouble, but only 6 minutes vs. SMU. I’m sure he’ll be fine as the season goes on, but he’s having a slow start.

Ibi Watson played in both games, and scored 4 and 2 points. He isn’t getting much playing time (3 and 7 minutes) because he isn’t doing much when he’s out there. Like Xavier Simpson, I’m sure he’ll be fine as the season goes on, but he’s also having a slow start.

Who Else Played

Brent Hibbitts, Sean Lonergan. Jon Teske, and Fred Wright-Jones all played in both games, but failed to score, except for Teske, who hit 2 free throws vs. SMU.

Who Didn’t Play

Andrew Dakich and Austin Davis are both being redshirted this season.

The Big Picture

Just one week after saying that we may have to adjust our expectations for Michigan downward a little for this season, they go into Madison Square Garden and dominate two pretty good teams. Can they keep it up? Will this translate into success in the Big Ten games? We shall see, but things sure look a lot more encouraging than they did just one week ago.

What’s Next

This week Michigan plays two more games, one on the road and one at home. On Wednesday (11/23/2016, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU), Michigan plays at South Carolina, then on Saturday (11/26/2016, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3), Michigan plays Mount St. Mary’s in Crisler Arena. The South Carolina game is Michigan’s first true “away” game, and it will be tough. The home game vs. Mount St. Mary’s should be much easier.

Come on down to Crisler for the home game, and check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #03 – 11/14/2016 – The 2K Classic “Ann Arbor Regional” Games

Quick Look

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played two games last week, and they won both of them. These games were the “Ann Arbor Regional” games for the 2K Classic. These games are technically part of the 2K Classic, but they don’t affect which teams go to the Championship Round on 11/17 and 11/18. They’re just “warm up” games. Anyway, Michigan beat Howard 76-58 on Friday (11/11/2016), then they beat IUPUI 77-65 on Sunday (11/13/2016). Both games were in Crisler Arena. Michigan’s record is now 2-0.

What Happened

Michigan won both games, but they didn’t look particularly good or sharp in either game. They had a very slow start vs. Howard, missing their first 6 shots, and were down 4-0 at the first media timeout. Once they got going, they traded the lead back and forth for the next few minutes, then they went ahead for good. Michigan led by 9 (34-25) at halftime, but Howard managed to make the game close again in the 2nd half. With 11:14 to go, UM only led by 5 (43-38). A quick 8-0 run by Michigan got the lead back up into double digits, and that’s where it stayed for the rest of the game. It was a long, slow, choppy game, with 47 fouls called. It was virtually unwatchable. Here are the complete stats for the Howard game.

The IUPUI game was a little better. At least the refs didn’t call 47 fouls (only 32). It was a quicker game, and IUPUI was a better opponent than Howard. The lead went back and forth for most of the 1st half, with IUPUI up by 2 points (32-30) with 4:18 left in the half. Michigan went on a 13-0 run to end the half, and they never looked back. IUPUI stayed within 12-14 points for most of the 2nd half, until UM pushed the lead up to 19 points (77-58) with 1:39 left. IUPUI scored the last 7 points against UM’s scrubs to make the score look closer than it was. Here are the IUPUI stats.

Michigan didn’t shoot very well in either game (44.4% vs. Howard, 40.9% vs. IUPUI), but they did shoot their free throws very well (23-for-26 vs. Howard, 16-for-18 vs. IUPUI). They barely outrebounded Howard (30-29), but did much better vs. IUPUI (40-31). The biggest improvement so far this season has been blocked shots. Michigan had 4 vs. Howard, and 7 vs. IUPUI.

Who Looked Good

The two senior starters, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr., both had a good week. Zak had 11 and 15 points, and Derrick had 20 and 13. Zak hasn’t found his 3-point stroke yet (1-for-6 and 0-for-2), but Derrick has (4-for-7 and 3-for-7). Zak still takes too many long 2-point shots for my taste, but he makes most of them, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Moritz Wagner started both games, and he looked pretty good in the Howard game (8 points), and better in the IUPUI game (13 points). He shot 7-for-8 from the free throw line for the week, and had a total of 9 rebounds. Not bad. He still isn’t looking very sharp on defense, but he’s getting better.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman didn’t play in the exhibition game, due to a minor ankle injury, but he started both games last week, and he looked pretty good. He hit a pair of 3-pointers vs. Howard to get Michigan going early, but that was all the scoring he did in that game. He had 12 points vs. IUPUI. He is still Michigan’s best player at driving to the hoop through traffic and finishing strong.

DJ Wilson had a very good week coming off the bench. He got close to double figures in both games (9 and 7 points), but he contributed in other ways. He had 8 rebounds (3 offensive) vs. Howard, and 14 rebounds (4 offensive) vs. IUPUI. He also had 1 blocked shot vs. Howard, and 5 vs. IUPUI.

Mark Donnal had a pretty good week coming off the bench. He had 12 points vs. Howard, and 8 vs. IUPUI. He plays better defense than Wagner.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Duncan Robinson started both games, but didn’t play very well. He is in a major shooting slump from 3-point range, which is usually the strength of his game. He was 1-for-3 vs. Howard, and 1-for-2 vs. IUPUI. Don’t be surprised to see Wilson starting in place of him.

Xavier Simpson looked pretty good in the Howard game (5 points), but didn’t do much in the IUPUI game. Can run the offense fairly well, but so far he hasn’t shown us any “wow” passes or great decision-making. He’s still learning.

Ibi Watson scored 2 points in each game. He fired up five 3-point attempts between the two games, and missed them all. I expect him to start hitting them soon, and be a 35-40% shooter from 3-point range.

Who Else Played

Brent Hibbitts, Sean Lonergan. Jon Teske, and Fred Wright-Jones all played in both games, but failed to score. Since Teske burned his redshirt, he’s the 3rd string center this season.

Who Didn’t Play

Andrew Dakich hasn’t played yet in one exhibition and two real games. I don’t know why.

Austin Davis is apparently being redshirted this season, barring a serious injury to any of the 3 other centers (Wagner, Donnal, and Teske).

The Big Picture

We may have to adjust our expectations for Michigan downward a little for this season. So far, they have underachieved, and they look like they may have chemistry problems. If they play the way they did last week against any of the upper-level Big Ten teams, they’ll get blown out. They were way too sloppy and shot way too poorly. Fortunately, they have time to get things straightened out, but we better start seeing improvement soon.

What’s Next

This week Michigan plays two games, in the Championship Round of the 2K Classic. These games are both in Madison Square Garden, in New York City. On Thursday (11/17/2016, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2), Michigan plays Marquette, then on Friday (11/18/2016, 4:30/6:30 p.m., ESPN2), Michigan plays either SMU or Pittsburgh. Matchups with all 3 of these opponents are toss-ups. We’ll know a lot more about this season’s team after we see how they do in this tournament.

Check back next week to see what happened, and why.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #02 – 11/06/2016 – The Exhibition Game

Quick Look

The University of Michigan men’s basketball team played one game last week, and they won it handily. Of course, it was an exhibition game against a Division II team, but still. Wins are wins. On Friday (11/04/2016), UM defeated Armstrong State 77-49 in Crisler Arena. This was an exhibition game, so Michigan’s record is still 0-0.

What Happened

Since it was an exhibition, Coach Beilein got to play almost everyone, and he got to try lots of different lineup combinations. Michigan pulled away early, and was never seriously challenged. The lead hovered in the 14-16 point range for most of the 1st half and the beginning of the 2nd half, before UM pushed it up into the 20s.

The game was sloppy for both teams, with 13 turnovers for Michigan and 19 for Armstrong State. Michigan shot pretty well (32-for-63 = 50.8%), but only OK from 3-point range (6-for-19 = 31.6%). Here are the complete stats.

The starters were Zak Irvin, Sean Lonergan, Duncan Robinson, Moritz Wagner, and Derrick Walton Jr. Lonergan started in place of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Andrew Dakich also didn’t play. I don’t know why.

Who Looked Good

The star of the game was Wagner. He only played 25 minutes, but he was the leading scorer, with 15 points. He shot well (7-for-9, 1-for-1 from 3-point range), only had 1 turnover and 2 fouls, and even grabbed a couple rebounds.

Irvin also had 15 points, but he was much less efficient than Wagner: 6-for-12, and 1-for-4 from 3-point range. He did grab 4 rebounds and a couple steals.

Walton hit double figures, with 12 points. He also shot 50% (3-for-6), grabbed a couple rebounds, and had 7 assists.

DJ Wilson played well in his new role on the wing. He had 10 points, on 4-for-10 shooting, and 9 rebounds. He also had a couple blocked shots, and played pretty good defense. He ran the floor well, and seemed to be much more comfortable out there.

Freshman Ibi Watson scored 7 points in 18 minutes, and looked pretty smooth out there.

Who Looked Not-So-Good

Robinson had a fairly mediocre game: 6 points on 3-for-7 shooting, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range. All 3 of his 3-point attempts were wide open; he just bricked them.

Freshman Xavier Simpson played 14 minutes, but failed to score. He looked fast and fearless, and he had 5 rebounds, but he needs to chip in a few points.

Mark Donnal was the backup at center, and he had a quiet game. He scored 2 points on 1-for-2 shooting in 7 minutes of action. He did have 4 rebounds.

Who Else Played

Lonergan played 20 minutes, and made both of his attempts for 4 points, along with a couple rebounds.

Freshman Jon Teske was the 3rd center, and he played for 4 minutes. He made both of his attempts, for 4 points.

Freshman Austin Davis was the 4th center, and he only played for 3 minutes. He made his only attempt, for 2 points. It sure looks like he’s going to be redshirted this season.

Redshirt freshman Brent Hibbitts played for 4 minutes, but failed to score.

Converted manager Fred Wright-Jones played for 2 minutes, but failed to score.

The Big Picture

What can we learn from an exhibition game? Not much. Michigan was obviously quite a bit better than Armstrong State, and they took care of business. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good practice. Michigan looked about as good as expected. On to the real games.

Note: At one point, Michigan did have 4 of their 5 “W” players on the court at once: Wagner, Walton, Watson, and Wilson. Only Wright-Jones was missing. I just noticed that all 4 of those names have 6 letters. Weird, huh?

What’s Next

This week Michigan plays two games, in the “Ann Arbor Regional” in the 2K Classic. These games are technically part of the 2K Classic, but they don’t affect which teams go to the Championship Round on 11/17 and 11/18. They’re just “warm up” games.

On Friday (11/11/2016, 9:00 p.m., BTN Plus), Michigan plays Howard, then on Sunday (11/13/2016, 12:00 p.m., WatchESPN), Michigan plays IUPUI. I expect Michigan to win both games handily, and get more chances to experiment with different lineup combinations.

Come on down to Crisler Arena to see how they do, and check back next week.

Go Blue!

Nothing But ‘Net – Week #01 – 10/31/2016 – Season Preview

mhoops_logo_bigI know, it’s hard to get excited about college basketball in the middle of such an exciting college football season, but it’s that time.  The first game is this Friday (11/04/2016) in Crisler Arena at 7:00.  It’s an exhibition vs. Armstrong State.  In fact, the team has already had an open practice this past week (Tuesday, 10/25/2016) in Crisler.  That went pretty well, and gave us a quick look at this season’s team.

Here’s my standard description of this weekly column:

Yeah, it’s time for University of Michigan men’s basketball, and this is the place to read all about it: “Nothing But ‘Net” on UMGoBlue.com.  Check back every Monday morning between now and the end of the season (hopefully the National Championship game again) for a quick, concise wrap-up of the previous week, and a look ahead at the upcoming week, all in one easy-to-read article.

As always here at UMGoBlue.com, the perspective is “by fans, for fans”.  I’m a fan (since 1974), and I go to all the home games, and watch/listen to all the away games.  I don’t have any special access (other than being an usher in Sections 209-210), I don’t go to the press conferences, and I don’t interview high school recruits.   I see the same things you do, and write about them as a fan.

Once again, let’s get right to the big question:

How good is the 2016-2017 team going to be?  The quick answer: about the same as last season.

So, how was last season?  In my preseason preview last year, I predicted “pretty good”, and that was about right.  Last season’s team wasn’t bad, but they weren’t great either.  I expect this season’s team to be about the same.  They’re not ranked in the Coaches Poll, and they’re picked to finish 6th or 7th in the Big Ten.

Read on for more details.

Last Season

Michigan ended last season with a record of 23-13 (10-8 in the Big Ten).  They went 10-3 in pre-conference play, with some good wins (Texas, in the Bahamas, and at N.C. State), some understandable losses (at home against a good Xavier team, vs. [#18] Connecticut, in the Bahamas, and at [#19] SMU), and a bunch of unsurprising wins against cupcakes.

In Big Ten play, Michigan won a couple games that they weren’t supposed to win (vs. [#3] Maryland at home, and vs. [#18] Purdue at home), lost several games that they were expected to lose (at [#20] Purdue, at [#16] Iowa, at home vs. [#22] Indiana, at home vs. [#10] Michigan State, at [#6] Maryland, and at home vs. [#16] Iowa), and lost a couple “toss-up” games on the road (at Ohio State, and at Wisconsin).  Still, they finished above 0.500 in the Big Ten, which was better than expected.

In the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan was the #8 seed, and they beat the #9 seed (Northwestern) in the 2nd round, then had their biggest win of the season, when they upset the #1 seed (Indiana) in the 3rd round.  They lost to the #4 seed (Purdue) in the tournament semi-finals, but did well enough overall to get invited to the NCAA Tournament.

In the NCAA Tournament, Michigan was a #11 seed in the East Regional, and had to play a “First Four” (play-in) game vs. another #11 seed, Tulsa.  They won that game, but lost to the #6 seed (Notre Dame) in the next round.

Players Lost

Michigan lost 5 players from last season’s roster:

Spike Albrecht – Spike could have returned for a 5th season, since he got a medical redshirt for last season, but he wasn’t invited back.  Instead, he’ll be the latest Michigan player to use the “graduate transfer rule”, and will be immediately eligible to play at Purdue this season.  We’ll miss him.

Kameron Chatman – It was kind of a surprise when Kameron announced at the end of last season that he was leaving the team to transfer to University of Detroit-Mercy (UDM), where he will have to sit out a season and have junior eligibility.  The head coach at UDM is Bacari Alexander, who was an assistant coach at Michigan, and coached Chatman during his freshman season.  Kameron was lightly used at Michigan, and will only be missed in a depth sense.

Aubrey Dawkins – It was also surprising when Aubrey announced at the end of last season that he was leaving the team to transfer to University of Central Florida (UCF) to play for his father, who is the head coach there.  He will also have to sit out a season, and have junior eligibility.  After a promising freshman season, I thought that Michigan could build their offense around Aubrey, but he regressed during his sophomore season, and now he’s gone.  He will be missed.

Ricky Doyle – Yet another (bad) surprise: Ricky left the team at the end of the season to transfer to Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), where he will be closer to home.  He’s another member of the promising class that finished their sophomore seasons, so he’ll have junior eligibility after sitting out a year.  At one point, Ricky looked like the starter at center, then he faded.  Still, he will be missed, mostly in a depth sense.

Caris LeVert – Finally, a graduating senior.  Caris was selected #20 in the 1st round of the NBA draft by the Brooklyn Nets.  He’s still recovering from surgery on the foot injury that cost him huge chunks of his last 2 seasons at Michigan.

On the one hand, it looks really bad that 3 players voluntarily transferred away from Michigan, and a 4th player was forced out, but on the other hand, each of the decisions makes sense when examined individually.  Chatman and Doyle had both slid way down the bench, and were getting less and less playing time, and Dawkins wanted to play for his father.  Michigan will be breaking in their point guard of the future (see below), so there really wasn’t much room for Albrecht.  It’s a shame, but it all makes sense, sort of.  I would be just as happy if everyone (except LeVert, who graduated) had stayed.

Players Returning

The good news is that all 5 starters from the end of last season are returning for this season. In fact, Michigan has a very talented group of players returning this season.  Here they are, by class year (eligibility):

Freshman Eligibility

Brent Hibbitts #0 (6’8”, 210 pounds, F) – Brent is a preferred walk-on, and will be part of the practice squad.  He voluntarily redshirted last season, so he still has freshman eligibility.  We only got to see him briefly in last season’s exhibition game, so we don’t know much about him.  He should see some playing time in “garbage time” this season.

 Sophomore Eligibility

Moritz Wagner #13 (6’11”, 240 pounds, F) – Moritz is probably the most exciting player on the team this season.  He played well at the beginning of last season as a true freshman, then vanished for most of the Big Ten schedule.  Just as suddenly, he reappeared for the postseason games, and was Michigan’s best post player.  He spent the summer in Ann Arbor (Camp Sanderson) working on his conditioning, and he grew an inch and added 15 pounds of muscle.  He also added several inches to his vertical jump.  If he can stay away from foul trouble, he could be a force out there this season.

DJ Wilson #5 (6’10”, 240 pounds, F) – DJ injured his knee during his freshman season, and took a medical redshirt year.  He played some last season, but he never really looked comfortable out there.  He has been moved from center to wing, and we’ll see if that revitalizes his game.  He’s very athletic, with the highest vertical jump on the team.

Junior Eligibility

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 (6’4”, 190 pounds, G) – MAAR got better as the season went on last year.  He was the best player at slashing to the rim, and he showed great athleticism against bigger players.  He doesn’t have the court vision of a point guard, and he doesn’t have the 3-point touch of a shooting guard, but he is fast and fearless.

Mark Donnal #34 (6’9”, 240 pounds, F) – Mark voluntarily redshirted his first season, so he has junior eligibility, even though he is listed as a senior on the official roster.  He began last season as a starter, lost his spot to Doyle, and almost disappeared.  When he got into the non-conference games, he didn’t do much.  Then the Big Ten season started, and he suddenly woke up.  He had several 20+ point games in league play, and became the clear choice for the starting center.  If he can start from that point this season, he could be a force in the Big Ten.

Sean Lonergan #20 (6’5”, 210 pounds, F) – Sean was voluntarily redshirted last season, so he’s a redshirt junior, even if he’s listed as a senior on the official roster.  During his sophomore season he played in 17 games, but only took 2 shots.  He made them both!  I’m not sure how much he will play this season, but I expect it to be mostly “garbage time”.

Duncan Robinson #22 (6’8”, 215 pounds, G/F) – Duncan started last season red hot from 3-point range, then cooled down as the wear-and-tear of the long Big Ten schedule ground him down.  On the positive side, as his 3-point shooting cooled off, he got much better at other phases of his game, especially rebounding and driving to the basket.  His defense could still use some work, and another summer of Camp Sanderson will certainly help.  If he has built up his conditioning and endurance, he could be one of the elite shooters in the Big Ten (and the nation) this season.

Senior Eligibility

Andrew Dakich #11 (6’2”, 190 pounds, G) – Andrew has voluntarily “burned his redshirt” the last two seasons, and has certainly helped the team when it needed him.  He plays hard when he’s in, but he’s obviously a step slower and a lot less athletic than the scholarship players on the other teams.  The opposing defenses get to play 5-on-4 when he’s on the floor, since he refuses to shoot, even when he’s wide open.  Still, he provides valuable rest for the main rotation guards when he’s in, and he can “hold the fort” for a few minutes.

Zak Irvin #21 (6’6”, 215 pounds, G/F) – Zak had a slow start to last season as he recovered from pre-season back surgery.  When both seniors (Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert) went down to injuries, he and Derrick Walton Jr. stepped up as on-floor leaders.  Zak wasn’t particularly efficient, but he managed to score a lot of points when his team needed them.  He played hard, and he provided good leadership.  Look for more of the same this season.

Derrick Walton Jr. #10 (6’1”, 190 pounds, G) – Derrick was the other on-court leader last season, once the seniors went down to injury.  He played pretty well all season, but he was obviously running out of gas near the end.  He was asked to carry a heavy load, due to the injuries, and it took a toll on him.  He’s a very good point guard, with great speed, a nice shooting stroke, and great rebounding instincts.

New Players

Coach Beilein brought in a good recruiting class this season, with four scholarship players, one preferred walk-on, and one transfer:

Austin Davis #51 (6’10”, 240 pounds, F) – Austin finished as runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Michigan last season.  He’s an old-fashioned, back-to-the-basket, physical center.  He’s a good scorer, rebounder, and defender.

Charles Matthews #1 (6’6”, 190 pounds, G) – Charles is a transfer from Kentucky, where he did pretty well as a true freshman.  He’ll have to sit out for a year, then he’ll have sophomore eligibility next season.

Xavier Simpson #3 (6’0”, 180 pounds, G) – Xavier is a true freshman, and is the point guard of the future that I mentioned above.  He will get plenty of chances to play this season, studying under Walton.  Xavier was Mr. Basketball for Ohio, and while he’s not very tall, he can run an offense, and he can score.

Jon Teske #15 (7’0”, 245 pounds, C) – Finally!  A 7-footer!  Jon is a rim-protector, which Michigan hasn’t had in years, and he can score.  We’ll see how quickly he can pick up the college game.

Ibi Watson #23 (6’5”, 190 pounds, G/F) – Ibi will remind us of Caris LeVert, once he gets the hang of the college game.  He’s got the same tools, and the same number.

Fred Wright-Jones #14 (5’11”, 170 pounds, G) – Fred was a manager on the team last season, and was converted into a practice player after all the injuries.  He actually dressed for one game last season, although he didn’t play, and now he’s on the official roster.  He’s going to be a practice squad player, but he might get in for some “garbage time”.

The odds are good that either Davis or Teske will voluntarily redshirt this season, but it’s not clear which one it will be.

This Season

Let’s take a look at Michigan’s schedule for this season:

Date Opponent Location Time (ET)
11/04/2016 (Fri) Armstrong State (exh) Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
2K Classic – Ann Arbor Regional
11/11/2016 (Fri) Howard Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
11/13/2016 (Sun) IUPUI Ann Arbor, MI 12:00 p.m.
2K Classic – Championship Games
11/17/2016 (Thu) Marquette New York, NY 9:30 p.m.
11/18/2016 (Fri) Pittsburgh/SMU New York, NY 4:30/6:30 p.m.
11/23/2016 (Wed) South Carolina Columbia, SC 5:00 p.m.
11/26/2016 (Sat) Mount St. Mary’s Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
11/30/2016 (Wed) Virginia Tech Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
12/03/2016 (Sat) Kennesaw State Ann Arbor, MI TBA
12/06/2016 (Tue) Texas Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
12/10/2016 (Sat) UCLA Los Angeles, CA 8:00 p.m.
12/13/2016 (Tue) Central Arkansas Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
12/17/2016 (Sat) Maryland Eastern Shore Ann Arbor, MI 3:00 p.m.
12/22/2016 (Thu) Furman Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
01/01/2017 (Sun) Iowa Iowa City, IA TBA
01/04/2017 (Wed) Penn State Ann Arbor, MI 8:30 p.m.
01/07/2017 (Sat) Maryland Ann Arbor, MI 3:15 p.m.
01/11/2017 (Wed) Illinois Champaign, IL 9:00 p.m.
01/14/2017 (Sat) Nebraska Ann Arbor, MI 2:00 p.m.
01/17/2017 (Tue) Wisconsin Madison, WI 9:00 p.m.
01/21/2017 (Sat) Illinois Ann Arbor, MI 2:15 p.m.
01/26/2017 (Thu) Indiana Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
01/29/2017 (Sun) Michigan State East Lansing, MI 1:00 p.m.
02/04/2017 (Sat) Ohio State Ann Arbor, MI 6:00 p.m.
02/07/2017 (Tue) Michigan State Ann Arbor, MI 9:00 p.m.
02/12/2017 (Sun) Indiana Bloomington, IN 1:00 p.m.
02/16/2017 (Thu) Wisconsin Ann Arbor, MI 7:00 p.m.
02/19/2017 (Sun) Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 1:00/TBA p.m.
02/22/2017 (Wed) Rutgers Piscataway, NJ 6:30 p.m.
02/25/2017 (Sat) Purdue Ann Arbor, MI TBA
03/01/2017 (Wed) Northwestern Evanston, IL 7:00 p.m.
03/05/2017 (Sun) Nebraska Lincoln, NE 8:00 p.m.
Big Ten Tournament
03/08/2017 (Wed) Opening Round Washington, DC TBA
03/09/2017 (Thu) 1st Round Washington, DC TBA
03/10/2017 (Fri) 2nd Round Washington, DC TBA
03/11/2017 (Sat) Semifinals Washington, DC 1:00/3:30 p.m.
03/12/2017 (Sun) Championship Washington, DC 3:30 p.m.

Some comments on the schedule:

  • All three of the other teams (Marquette, Pittsburgh, and SMU) in the 2K Classic are good. It will be a challenging tournament.
  • Playing at South Carolina is going to be a tough game.
  • Michigan stands a good chance against Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
  • The home game against Texas is the best home non-conference opponent.
  • The game at UCLA will be a big challenge.
  • The rest of the non-conference opponents are cupcakes.
  • The toughest stretch in the Big Ten schedule is the Indiana (home), Michigan State (away), Ohio State (home), Michigan State (home), Indiana (away), Wisconsin (home) section. If Michigan can go 3-3 for those 6 games, they should be in good shape.
  • Each Big Ten team plays 8 teams once and 5 teams twice, for a total of 18 games. This season, Michigan plays:
    • Once: Iowa (away), Penn State (home), Maryland (home), Ohio State (home), Minnesota (away), Rutgers (away), Purdue (home), Northwestern (away).
    • Twice: Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State.

Expectations

I like to divide the games up into 3 categories (“Should Win”, “Should Lose”, and “Toss Up”):

  • Should Win (13) – Howard, UIPUI, Mount St. Mary’s, Kennesaw State, Central Arkansas, Maryland Eastern Shore, Furman, Penn State, Nebraska (both), Minnesota, Rutgers, Northwestern.
  • Should Lose (6) – UCLA, Iowa, Wisconsin (away), Michigan State (both), Indiana (away).
  • Toss Up (12) – Marquette, 2nd round 2K Classic, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Texas, Maryland, Illinois (both), Indiana (home), Ohio State, Wisconsin (home), Purdue.

If UM can win all 13 of the “Should Win” games, and half of the 12 “Toss Up” games, that would give them a record of 19-12 (9-9 in the Big Ten).  That might be good enough to get UM into the NCAA Tournament, depending on how they do in the Big Ten Tournament.

This Week

As you can see in the schedule above, Michigan’s first (exhibition) game is Friday (11/04/2016, 7:00 p.m., BTN Plus) vs. Armstrong State.  Michigan legend Cazzie Russell is one of the assistant coaches for Armstrong State, which is why Michigan is playing them. Of course, UM will win handily and get to try all kinds of combinations of players out there.  Come on down to Crisler Arena to check out this season’s edition of Michigan Basketball, and stop by sections 209/210 to say hi.

Go Blue!