Michigan Basketball Season Preview: The Story

Submitted by Tim on November 12th, 2010 at 3:48 PM

 celebration.jpg  novakbloody.jpg

Part the fourth and final. Previously: Media Day, the Team, and Schedule Preview

Just a year ago, the Michigan basketball team was fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade and expectations were high in Ann Arbor. Two walkons and a Canadian (CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Jevohn Shepherd) were the only departures, and the Wolverines were ready to take the next step forward.

So that went well, right?


Not so much, no.

Michigan sputtered the entire year, unable to find the spark that they'd ridden the previous season thanks in large part to their inability to find the bottom of the net. In retrospect, it should have been obvious: though they weren't frequently deployed, CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Kelvin Grady (who quit the team and eventually joined the football squad instead) were the team's best 3-point shooters. They were also the only point guards on the roster. Maybe those freshman phenoms from Indiana weren't as magical as it seemed.

The Wolverines turned their highest expectations in several years into a 15-17 record. Some losses were embarrassing, and the near upsets of Michigan State and Ohio State both ended with painful daggers from the opponent--one from mid-court.

Manny Harris has taken his talents to the Cleveland Cavaliers. DeShawn Sims took his to Greece, then back to America. Zack Gibson graduated, Anthony Wright is playing out his final year of eligibility at Toledo, Laval Lucas-Perry will ride the bench at Oakland for a season, and the most experienced players in Ann Arbor (outside of the opponents) are a pair of 3-star juniors and a sophomore.


Expectations are low this season, and understandably so. But does that mean Michigan fans should simply forget about the men of Crisler? Zack Novak has thrown himself on the floor, been elbowed in the face, and guarded guys half-a-foot taller than him too many times to be ignored. Stu Douglass has nailed one too many clutch shots, and learned one too many new positions (they call this one "point guard," whatever that is) for this team to simply fade away. Top recruits Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway Jr. did not sign up to lose games wearing the maize and blue. These players want to win big games, and they'll probably do it at times this year.

We don't know who will be the stars, or which freshmen will perform. We don't know if Michigan's inexperienced bigs will be able to slow down the likes of Syracuse, Illinois, and Purdue. We don't know if the Wolverines will finally be able to find the bottom of the net after a year of searching, but coming up with mostly iron. We don't know if they'll run an effective 1-3-1 and force opponent turnovers. We don't know what to expect from this team.

Ever the optimist, I think this team will surprise a couple opponents [Ed-M: "Surprise" as in "beat" or as in "ha, bet you didn't know some of us shave!"?]. However, with such a young roster, there's no doubt that they'll be upset themselves. The one thing they can promise, though, is that they'll be fun to watch. Maybe not in every individual game, but seeing these young players grow over the course of the season should be an entertaining - if often frustrating - experience all its own.

And though I mean it every time I say it, this one may come from a little deeper in the heart: Go Blue.



November 12th, 2010 at 3:56 PM ^

But I'm anxious to see Novak playing his natural position. If for no one else's sake, for his own.
<br>With no expectations, you can only surprise positively, so the lack of pressure should make any precocious development a treat.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:59 PM ^

I asked this in Tim's previous basketball post, but it was pretty buried. So, I digress: I am curious if most people think that Belein gets a "pass" for this year? By that, I don't know many people thinking that UM will be very competitive in the Big 10, and any record hovering around .500 would probably exceed my (if not everyone's) expectations.

Personally, barring an incredible meltdown (i.e. not only losing a ton of games, but looking terrible in the process), I think Belein gets an extra year. I think DB realizes that the basketball program is undergoing the same transition that football has been experiencing the past few years (except the basketball team has far fewer assets to work with!!!) Nevertheless, while I am not exactly riding shotgun on the Belein bandwagon, I think he can get UM back to a semi-respectable level (maybe not the top-tier), and - at this point - a semi-respectable level is much more preferrable to where we have been and currently are.

So, I am curious if most people believe that Belein has a free pass for the year considering he is fielding a pretty young team in a deep conference?


November 12th, 2010 at 4:27 PM ^

gets the standard 5 years, and will be evaluated by Brandon at the end of the year, like he does with each coach.  I don't think he gets a pass, as most of this falls on his shoulders, since the lack of recruiting is what ails this team most.


November 12th, 2010 at 4:38 PM ^

I hate this meme.

What lack of recruiting? Beilein has had 3 classes arrive at Michigan:

In the first, he literally had 1 month to assemble Douglass and Novak. 1 month of recruiting. It's a miracle he even got those guys.

In his first ACTUAL class, he landed a top 100 player (Morris), a guy on the fringe of the top 100 (Vogrich), a well-thought of local banger (Morgan), and a project (McLimans)

In his SECOND actual class, another top 100 player (Smotrycz), another fringe top 100 player (Hardaway), an athletic project (Christian), and a raw prospect with NBA bloodlines out his nose (Horford)

He has 2 top 100 players signed for next year - Brundidge and Trey Burke.

The recruiting has, actually, been good. The issue is that Michigan retained a grand total of 3 players from from Amaker's final two classes.


November 12th, 2010 at 6:52 PM ^

As frustrated as I am with our program, we need to cheer for this team.

The program has nearly suffered a "death penalty" due to length of time it took for the Ed Martin saga to play out.  Let's not continue to beat this dead horse.

The current team, while down on depth, deserves our support.  It is not their fault that the team did not perform well last year.  That was last year.

They deserve and need our support to continue to build Michigan back to respectability.

Go Blue Hoops!


November 12th, 2010 at 8:23 PM ^

belein's first class will turn out to be the worst in a long long time.  and that hurts right now.  with manny gone, we have no upper class studs.  just like in the football program.  while i appreciate the hustle of novak, he and stu really need to step up their shooting accuracy.  they were both supposed to be really good shooters and take on that role on the offense.  they've both disappointed in that regard.

the best guy in that class was supposed to be cronin.  and his size would have been invaluable last year and this year.

there is no denying that beilein is a good coach, and he put together a good frosh class this year.  and he's onto another good class for next year.  but we sorely need a true center to compete in the big 10.  hopefully, we can land one.


November 12th, 2010 at 4:46 PM ^

Either they're going to be awful, which everyone expected, and people tune out and wait till next year to start getting grumpy or not.  Or they do less than awful, and then it's a surprise year, with stuff to build on, and maybe extra pressure next year. Though I'm not sure even next year is a make or break for him. Coaching Michigan Basketball hasn't been really high pressure for a long time.  So he's under zero danger for the near future.


November 12th, 2010 at 10:38 PM ^

Is he on the hot seat?  How many games does he have to win to keep his job?  Yada, yada, yada.  Can't we just get behind our team and support them, cheer for them and try to be a positive influence and leave all of that speculation for the end of the season?


November 12th, 2010 at 4:01 PM ^

This definitely got me pumped up, so much so that I went to give you a +1, Tim, and forgot that you can't posbang a front page post.  So, maybe you want to reply to this comment so I can show my appreciation.


November 12th, 2010 at 4:08 PM ^

You are giving the 2 juniors too much credit by saying Michigan has 2 3-star returning juniors.  They were late 3-star additions on Rivals, and on Scout Stu was a 2-star and Novak was unranked.  These were as low of "3-stars" as you could possibly be rated.  3-star doesn't have to be a totally negative thing for most players, but these 2 are not really even 3-star talents.  They show alot of heart but natural ability they are not 3-star.


November 12th, 2010 at 4:24 PM ^

I don't generally follow college basketball (I keep an eye on how Michigan's doing, but basketball isn't really my thing), but I'll be damned if this article didn't get me excited for this team. Nice work, Tim, really well written and should hopefully inspire the fanbase.

I'm not expecting a lot in terms of record, but I am expecting the basketball team to be right up there with the football team in terms of individuals I want to root for.


November 12th, 2010 at 4:35 PM ^

Good post, Tim.  I love the cautious optimism.  There's no question that there is some great, young talent on this team.  Tim Hardaway could become a UM-hoops superstar.

We will watch, and the frustration will mount.  Not b/c we lose some games, but b/c we see all the potential these young players have.  Needless to say, go blue, and, of course, do it up


November 12th, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

And though I mean it every time I say it, this one may come from a little deeper in the heart: Go Blue.


I yell at my tv more during one half of a M basketball game than I do the entire football season.  I don't know what it is, but I just want the BBall team to good so badly.  I guess we, as fans, were spoiled with always going to bowl games in football for so long that it seemed like we should be going to the NCAAs in BBall each year too. 

I have watched, listened to, streamed, or followed an online game tracker for every M basketball game since the technology existed to do so.  I'll do the same this year, and pull for the team, and yell at them, for them and with them every game... win or lose!

Go Blue!  From the deepest part of my maize and blue heart.


November 12th, 2010 at 7:32 PM ^

I can't even begin to compare what Beilein inherited as compared to Rodriguez.  Absolutely night and day when it comes to tradition, winning seasons, facilities, etc. 

Go Blue.  I'm pulling for Beilein and his old school approach.


November 13th, 2010 at 4:23 AM ^

And better than that in OOC games.

In the long run, we need to get back to where we compete for the Big Ten title.

And I don't want to wait three or four more years.