Michigan?s basketball team ended their season in the Sweet 16 last year with a one-point loss to Oregon.
That team lost a lot of production with Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. graduating, and DJ Wilson leaving early.
That?s over 100 minutes that need to be replaced.
Moe Wagner, Zavier Simpson, and Ibi Watson should all see an uptick in minutes. With the addition of the 2017 recruiting class, and the transfers of Charles Matthews and Jaaron Simmons, Michigan will be in good hands.
Michigan’s starting 5
Point Guard – Zavier Simpson
Zavier Simpson got the start at point guard for the Grand Valley State exhibition game, and I don’t see Eli Brooks or Jaaron Simmons taking his spot right now. Simpson has been with Beilein and this team much longer than the other two, so he seems like the best fit for now.
Shooting Guard – Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
MAAR is entering his senior season, and he is lone member on the team from the 2014 recruiting class – also the lowest rated scholarship player from that class. He has become a good ball handler and is extremely tough to keep out of the lane. MAAR is geared up to have the best season of his college career.
Small Forward – Charles Matthews
The former 5-star Kentucky transfer has Michigan fans excited, especially after his performance in the exhibition game versus GVSU. Matthews brings athleticism to this team that has been missing since Glenn Robinson III. Look for some of those back-screen alley-oop plays that Michigan used to run to GR3. Charles should be the main scoring option and leader on this team.
Power Forward – Duncan Robinson
Robinson is entering his fifth year, and his role on this Michigan basketball team is interesting. He can shoot from just about anywhere on the floor, and has progressed in every other aspect of his game in his time under Beilein. Duncan is a great basketball player, but his offerings to this team could be limited by his athleticism and the emergence of freshman forward Isaiah Livers.
Center – Moritz Wagner
With DJ Wilson leaving Michigan for the NBA, Moritz Wagner needed to come back to save this season for the Wolverines. Moe is the most skilled big man that Michigan has had in recent memory. He creates match-up problems with his ability to face-up and take slower big guys to the rack. Defenders could just sag off of him, but he is also one of the better shooters on the team. Last year he shot 39.5% from the arc.
6th man + Bench
Sixth Man – Isaiah Livers
Isaiah Livers from Kalamazoo Central will be tough to keep off the floor. He is a great athlete and he can really shoot. He may eat into Duncan’s minutes and depending on how well he can rebound and defend at the 4, he might crack into the starting lineup – I also really like the idea of Duncan coming off the bench with Jaaron Simmons.
Main Bench Players – Jaaron Simmons, Ibi Watson, Jon Teske/Austin Davis
I predict that Jaaron Simmons gets the most minutes after Zavier Simpson at the PG position. He is a lot more experienced than Eli Brooks, and he has proved he can compete at a high level, although is was at Ohio.
Ibi Watson is going to have to step it up this year. He is going to be plugged into the back up 2-guard spot, and Michigan is going to need production out of him. Even though it was an exhibition, Watson put up 8 points against GVSU, after only scoring 24 points all of last year.
The back up big man spot will be the most sketchy heading into the season. Teske played all of 3 minutes a game last year, but Davis didn’t play at all. My bet would be on Teske to see more minutes. The Sophomore is is 7-1 and is the best shot blocker on the team (per 40 min).
Nov 29 – North Carolina vs Michigan
North Carolina enters the season ranked 9th in the nation by the Associated Press. This is going to be a really tough game for the Wolverines, especially since it is being played in Chapel Hill. NC played Northern Iowa at home where they won by a score of 89-68. Junior forward Luke Maye led their team with 26 points and 10 boards. With the game being earlier in the season, I think that North Carolina is at a big advantage. NC is the more talented team, and it doesn’t give Michigan a ton of time to create game chemistry before they play. Michigan could also be at a disadvantage because their players have to take real classes.
Dec 9 – UCLA vs Michigan
UCLA loses Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf from last year, but the team still has a lot of talent. The AP rewarded that talent with a ranking of 21 in their preseason Top 25. With this game being at Crisler, and I really don’t hate Michigan’s chances here. It gives them a little time after their first huge test in North Carolina to find out what might need to be fixed.
Chances to win the Big Ten
Unfortunately, I don’t think their odds to win the Big Ten are very good. As much as I hate to say it, this Michigan State team is extremely talented. Everyone from that #3 recruiting class in 2016 is back, most importantly, Miles Bridges. Then in 2017, they added 5-star Jaren Jackson – former teammate of Michigan SG Jordan Poole. Michigan State should win the Big Ten, and if they don’t it would be a disaster for that team.
The team that I think finishes after Michigan State and Michigan is Wisconsin. Ethan Happ is an all-star, and with him on the floor Wisconsin has a chance to win just about any game. Last year, Happ averaged 14 points and 9 boards a game – while shooting 59% from the field. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Happ averaging closer to 20 points and 10 boards as a Junior this year.
That being said I think Michigan is one of those teams that can beat anyone if they are on. Some teams simply can’t keep up with the scoring if Michigan is knocking down threes.