"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
"There's a certain level of confidence and composure he brings to the court," said sophomore forward Aubrey Dawkins, who played the bulk of his minutes as a freshman while LeVert sat on the end of the bench in a sweat suit. "When you know you have a player like that on your team of that caliber, it's just like, we're in his hands and he can do a lot of things for this team. It's a comfort. It's nice."
"I just really wanted to see him in a game and I loved what I saw," Beilein said. "He was active. He's got a motor. He's got some things he's got to work on. He doesn't have the strength to (play) the way he'd like to in the Big Ten yet, but that's what we're going to work on in-between (games) without inhibiting his ability to play the next game."
Part the First in a preview series for Michigan Men's Basketball
The first part of Media Day was a role reversal of sorts, as Michigan's coaches put reporters through a typical (though abbreviated) workout for the Wolverines. Yours truly is pictured at right (photo by Julian Gonzales of the Free Press) being laughed at by John Beilein.
The workout was fairly light aside from a couple of the exercises that were designed to get our hearts working. It wasn't that tough - unsurprising considering most of the participants were middle-aged, and I'm not. One thing that surprised me was how much of the workout was devoted to injury prevention.
Stu Douglass - The Europe trip helped the process of integrating new guys into the team, and they're poised despite their lack of experience. Guys are willing to put in the work to build something from this team, and to win. There is no making up for the personnel losses from last year's team, they're just looking at this as an entirely new squad.
Zack Novak - The lack of expectations will help motivate the team, and maybe sneak up on some people: "We like the position we're in right now." The goal of the team is to get better and grow each day, not necessarily any win totals. It's on the team leaders to help guide the younger guys toward that goal, and keep them on an even keel - not getting too high or too low. The young guys are going to be able to step up, too. Matt Vogrich "hasn't missed a shot in weeks" and the big guys are working hard - "I can go to battle with someone that's been working like they have."
Evan Smotrycz - The goal for Michigan is to improve to a level where they can compete with Michigan State and other top team in the country on a nightly basis. With no proven talent in the frontcourt, there's pressure for the young guys to perform, but there's also an opportunity for them to grow. The team's leaders have developed and guided the team in the Europe trip, in open gyms, and in workouts. The goal for every college team is to get to the NCAA tournament, but the Wolverines are more concerned with getting better every day and helping the team win.
Matt Vogrich - Novak is the most vocal player on the team, emphasizing toughness both physically and mentally. There are going to be ups and downs over the course of the season, so the players need to be able to play through them and not let their play be affected. Matt isn't necessarily gunning for a starting role, but whatever the team needs from him. He just wants to get enough minutes to prove he's a play that can help the team succeed.
Jordan Morgan - Jordan is finally 100% healthy. He's struggled with a couple different injuries since arriving at Michigan, and he's excited for the opportunity to be healthy. With no game experience in the frontcourt, there's pressure and opportunity to perform.
Coaches need to adapt to twists and turns during the season, but Coach Beilein likes where they're starting the year. There's a competitive spirit within the team, and expects the players to step up, particularly shooting the ball: "We don't have 1/6 nights from three." He urged everyone to look next door to Michigan Stadium if they don't believe this team can improve, saying "Just look at what Denard has done this year." If anybody on Michigan's team makes a similar leap, they'll surprise some opponents this year.
The rotation should be more inclusive this year, featuring 9 or 10 guys. More on Beilein's comments about individual players in the personnel preview coming later this week.
... No seniors, but we have a really weak non-conference schedule this year. 3 tough games out of 12; utah who beat us last year, clemson, and syracuse on the road in primetime. Taking an 9-3 record into conference play would be huge for the teams confidence.
I think 9-3 is a possibility, but instead of losing to Utah (who is really not very good, I mean we aren't either, but you know, yeah, I hope we win), we're prolly gonna lose in the consolation game of the legends classic.