2016-17 B1G Basketball Preview: Michigan

Submitted by Alex Cook on October 14th, 2016 at 2:07 PM

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[Bryan Fuller – MGoBlog]

PREVIOUSLY: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland

John Beilein’s entering his tenth season at Michigan – making him the fourth-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten. At this point, his methods, basketball ideology, recruiting habits, and distinct offensive style have become very familiar in Ann Arbor; even though there legitimate questions about his recruiting and his typically poor defenses, he’s one of the best offensive minds in college hoops. After having two teams that were legit national title contenders, things have trended downwards for Michigan: they missed the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15 and barely snuck in last year.

Of course, the injury to Caris LeVert was a devastating blow – as were many of the other injuries that have plagued Michigan since their Final Four trip a few years ago. Even though Michigan didn’t particularly play well in non-conference play last season, that wasn’t the fault of LeVert: the senior had developed into an All-American caliber player, was putting in the best defensive effort of his career, and seemed much more comfortable in an alpha dog role than he did as a junior. Unfortunately, he was lost to a season-ending injury for the second consecutive season – and was still a first-round draft pick.

Even without LeVert for almost the entirety of conference play (as well as Spike Albrecht, who was also sidelined by injury), Michigan scraped together an NCAA Tournament resume that was good enough to barely get the Wolverines in as one of the last four teams – forced to play in the “First Four” in Dayton. The best thing about their resume was the lack of truly bad losses, and Ohio State was the only team that wasn’t tournament-quality to beat Michigan. A handful of marquee wins – against Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana – were enough. Michigan’s mediocre conference efficiency margin (+0.4) suggests that they were lucky to get in.

Each of the starters from last year’s team will be back. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are the veterans; both were highly-regarded as recruits but have seemingly hit their ceilings – Walton shot 36% from two and Irvin had a sub-100 offensive rating last season. Joining them are Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, a slashing junior guard who’s old for his class, Duncan Robinson – mostly Just A Shooter – and Mark Donnal, a redshirt junior center who’s being pushed by tantalizing German big man Moritz Wagner.

While that starting five has a decided lack of star power – and most of the bench transferred, leaving incoming freshmen likely to play – continuity and experience are things that Michigan hasn’t been able to enjoy for several years. Even without a star, those factors (as well as Beilein’s expertise) should mean that the offense will be among the Big Ten’s best. Ultimately, this seems like a high-floor, low-ceiling type team: unless there’s significant defensive improvement, it’s hard to envision a leap back into the conference’s top tier.

[More on the Wolverines after the JUMP]

LAST SEASON

michigan1

michigan2

Michigan’s efficiency and usage distribution mostly falls along the typical downward linear trajectory, adhering to “more usage = lower efficiency” tendency pretty strongly (aside from Andrew Dakich, an outlier). There’s a reasonable explanation why Zak Irvin was the least-efficient starter by a significant margin: nobody else could take a lot of those possessions – when Michigan was leveraged into situations when someone had to take tough shots, it was always Irvin (for his part, the chucker tendencies he showed early on in his career makes him a natural fit for that role). Still, his shooting splits – 48 / 30 / 66 (2P% / 3P% / FT%) – were nowhere near good enough excel in that role.

After struggling with turf toe as a sophomore, Derrick Walton improved his offensive rating by double digits as a junior with the same level of usage. He may not be capable of late-clock shot creation, but he’s a great 3-and-D point guard with unique skills; his assist and turnover rates are good for the position. Walton’s shooting % from inside the arc is an anchor and indicates that it would be difficult for him to assume a much larger role offensively.

The role players – with the exceptions of Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson, who seemed to shoot the ball every time it was passed to them – were mostly very efficient in narrow roles. Duncan Robinson’s 45% shooting from three made him one of the most lethal weapons in the Big Ten on a per-shot basis (creating looks for him was much more difficult after LeVert was injured and opponents started sticking their best defender on Robinson); Mark Donnal shot 63% on two-point attempts that were mostly created by scheme and the individual passing ability of Michigan’s perimeter players. Aubrey Dawkins and Ricky Doyle found themselves decisively stuck behind those two, respectively, and transferred. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman showed flashes of shot creation ability at times but was a secondary option all season.

In total, Michigan wasn’t efficient enough on offense to overcome their defensive liabilities – the Wolverines were able to hold opponents under 1.1 points per possession just once in games they lost. The offense finished 42nd in Kenpom’s adjusted efficiency metric – far short of the lofty standard set by other Beilein teams.

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Four Factor Z-Scores from games against Big Ten opponents

Of all the four factor profiles in the Big Ten, nobody had a more extreme distribution than the Wolverines. On offense, Michigan shot the ball efficiently and – as is typical of Beilein teams – avoided turnovers extremely well and didn’t get to the free throw line much at all. Their inability to generate possessions on the offensive glass (which is mostly a strategic choice) probably helped prevent more lucrative transition opportunities for opposing offenses.

Still, the opponents typically shredded Michigan regardless of how much (or how little) they were able to get out and run. Somehow the Wolverines allowed Big Ten teams to hit 55.5% of their two-point attempts, by far the worst mark in the league. The composite eFG% number – which incorporates shots outside and inside the arc – finished 13th, just ahead of an extremely awful Rutgers team. The Wolverines’ surprisingly good defensive rebounding and foul avoidance were the only things keeping them from having a defense that would have made it impossible to contend for a tournament bid.

NEWCOMERS

Michigan’s four-man freshman class will be expected to contribute right away after the transfers of Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins, Kam Chatman, and Ricky Doyle. While that attrition might hurt the bench a little bit, it’s probably better in the long run for the Wolverines’ scholarship situation. The most highly-rated prospect in the class is Ohio PG Xavier Simpson, who picked Michigan over Wisconsin: he’s a little bit undersized but attacks the basket and plays great defense. With injuries, Michigan has been forced to give walk-on Andrew Dakich minutes as the backup point guard; Simpson should be a substantial improvement there and will likely start as a sophomore.

The Wolverines added two centers with slightly different skill sets – Jon Teske has long arms, great timing on blocks, and a good understanding of verticality, but he’s still skinny; Austin Davis is more of a ground-bound five who uses his massive size to dominate on the glass (it’s worth noting that his high school competition was very poor and often simply unable to handle a kid that big). Teske is an intriguing long-term prospect and could be the best shot-blocker Beilein has had at Michigan; Davis is perhaps more ready to play right away. Since there are minutes to be had as a third center, at least one will probably play.

The departures of Dawkins and Chatman will leave Michigan very thin on the wing, where Ibi Watson will be forced to play immediately. Whether he’s ready to contribute is an open question: he was a middling shooter on high volume at the high school level and wasn’t known for his defensive ability. While Michigan’s succeeded with underrated wing recruits during Beilein’s tenure, Watson’s unproven and while he has the physical attributes to be considered a nice developmental process, it’s unknown whether he’s college-ready now – though he’ll have to play regardless of if he is or not.

PROJECTED ROTATION

  • STARTER (POINT GUARD) – Derrick Walton (Sr, 6’1, 190): Played the 2nd-most minutes of anyone in Big Ten play, amazing rebounder for his size, good assist and steal rates, took over half of his shots from 3-point range.
  • STARTER (GUARD) – Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (Jr, 6’4, 190): Crafty penetrating guard, shot over 50% on 2-point shots, improved his 3-point range (36%) as a sophomore, low assist and turnover rates.
  • STARTER (WING) – Duncan Robinson (R-Jr, 6’8, 215): Just A Shooter, shot 59% on 3-point attempts from the corner, shot 39% on attempts from straight-on or on the wing, developed a more well-rounded game as the season progressed.
  • STARTER (POINT FORWARD) – Zak Irvin (Sr, 6’6, 215): Playmaking four dealt with nagging back issues last season and his 3-point % improved as the season went on, still rather inefficient, seemingly had to force things a lot last season.
  • STARTER (POST) – Mark Donnal (R-Jr, 6’9, 240): Proverbial light came on at the start of Big Ten play, converted scoring opportunities efficiently, good offensive and bad defensive rebounding (maybe scheme on the latter?).
  • BENCH (POINT GUARD) – Xavier Simpson (Fr, 6’0, 180): Drew some inevitable Trey Burke comparisons (Ohio Mr. Basketball as a PG), could play alongside Walton, will improve Michigan’s perimeter defense at the very least.
  • BENCH (WING) – Ibi Watson (Fr, 6’5, 185): Perhaps the only credible backup at the 2 / 3, scouting reports say that he’s a good scorer but not much of a distributor (though surely he’ll be taught the pick-and-roll like most Michigan wings).
  • BENCH (STRETCH BIG) – DJ Wilson (R-So, 6’10, 240): Took a redshirt year because the game was moving too fast for him, seemed to be the case again last year, has shot-blocking potential, takes threes (and only made 30%).
  • BENCH (POST) – Moritz Wagner (So, 6’10, 234): German big man made huge strides near the end of last season, has the potential to take the starting job from Donnal because of his skill and activity level, but was very foul-prone.
  • BENCH (POST) – Jon Teske (Fr, 7’0, 245): The guess here is that Teske gets playing time over Davis, could potentially make a much-needed impact defensively.

PLAYER COMPARISON

A few years ago, I came up with a system that would compare the statistical profiles of Big Ten players to their historical counterparts by taking the sum of the differences between a given player’s profile and each of the thousand player-seasons from 2008-present in twenty different statistical categories.

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# value is the Z-Score of the player’s statistic (or statistics averaged over multiple seasons) relative to the entire sample

Perhaps nothing better contextualizes Zak Irvin’s struggles last season than with whom he’s compared to: that Tre Demps – a shot-happy combo guard who played a lot for Northwestern – is his closest analogue is not a good thing. It was very interesting to see Tim Hardaway Jr.’s solid junior season that high on Irvin’s list; the gap in efficiency is a big difference between the two, as is Irvin’s ability to pass the ball. In any case, a different set of names would have probably emerged had Irvin not been injured to start the season.

It’s impossible to know exactly how much that back injury slowed him down, but his shooting numbers suggest that it might have been pretty serious: Irvin hit only 20% of his threes in the non-conference portion of the season before hitting a far more respectable 39% in Big Ten play and in the postseason (with many of those shots coming off the dribble). Even though he did shoot better from three as the season went on, Irvin played a lot (6th-highest playing time in Big Ten play) and was forced to guard the better forward of the two opponents put on the floor. The strain showed, and Irvin – like Derrick Walton last year  – seems to be a decent bet to experience a leap with a season at full health.

OUTLOOK

With five returning starters, Michigan has more returning experience than any team in the Big Ten (except for Wisconsin). Still, for the Wolverines to break through into the upper echelon of the league, they’re going to have to improve a lot on the defensive end – something that’s rightfully been the program’s focus since the NCAA Tournament loss to Notre Dame last spring (a game that Michigan led by a dozen points at halftime). The hiring of Billy Donlon as an assistant – one that Beilein’s repeatedly compared to a “defensive coordinator” – is promising and perhaps he’ll be able to bring Michigan’s defense up to at least average for the first time since 2012-13. Donlon’s head coaching career at Wright State showed that he has some tactical acumen on that side of the floor.

While Michigan’s an undersized team, it wouldn’t be impossible for them to cobble together an adequate defense. There are a lot of questions: Will Xavier Simpson’s reputation as a defensive bulldog get him significant minutes (and more rest for an overworked Derrick Walton)? Can the big men’s weaknesses on that end be mitigated by scheme – or will one of the freshmen step up to grab valuable PT? Is DJ Wilson going to make an impact with his length and quickness, perhaps as a four? Will Michigan be able to have a deeper rotation so their best players don’t get worn out by the end of the game?

The offense should be better than it’s been the last two seasons, but it probably won’t come close to the fire-breathing Burke- and Stauskas-led attacks of earlier in Beilein’s tenure. Michigan hasn’t had continuity or a veteran presence like this team will have since Beilein took over; perhaps this will more resemble his West Virginia teams that drilled his signature offense to perfection than the more star-focused offenses of his tenure in Ann Arbor. That’s partially because Walton and Irvin don’t quite have the ability to take on heavy responsibility and come away with anything other than really inefficient basketball.

It really does come down to the defense. Michigan pretty much returns everyone from a team that found itself perched on the edge of the bubble come tournament time, and if there’s not improvement on the defensive end, they’ll likely be in a similar situation again this season – in the middle of the Big Ten and in the tournament, but as a low seed that’s a long shot to make it to the second weekend. With Beilein around, the offense will be fine – though there’s a decided lack of dynamic playmaking on the roster, which could be a problem. At worst, the offense will be pretty good – something that can’t be said of the defense. Billy Donlon isn’t a widely-known name around the Big Ten, but he might be the most important person to Michigan’s hopes this season. If the Wolverines can play defense – a big “if” – they could perhaps be the biggest surprise in the conference.

Comments

Ziff72

October 14th, 2016 at 2:23 PM ^

I think people forget what Irvin looked like as a Sophmore.  At the end of the year when everyone was hurt he was forced to carry the team on his back and he was phenomenal.

Last year he was a shell of his former self.  I have never seen a guy take such a visible step back in terms of athleticism.  I know he may have had 1 or 2 last year but he could barely dunk.  I give him huge credit for grinding that season out  playing at what appeared to be 60/70%.

I hope he's all the way back and has a great year shutting up all the doubters. 

Tater

October 14th, 2016 at 3:30 PM ^

I really hope you are right about Irvin.  I have a more pessimistic POV that goes as follows.

When Irvin came into college, he had a great, idiosyncratic outside shot that nobody could seem to figure out how to defend.  Then opposing coaches "decoded him" and the outside shots stopped falling.  So Irvin started driving to the basket, again with an idiosyncratic style, and was unstoppable.  Then opposing coaches "decoded him" again.

I think Irvin is going to have to come up with ways to get his shot off effectively again this year.  I hope you are right and a fully-healthy Irvin finds a way to shoot around and over defenders and they start falling from both inside and outside.  

If Irvin, Watson and Simpson can provide serious offense this year, defenses won't be able to key on Duncan Robinson as much and he will get open shots again.  If they get some help from the bigs, it could open up the floor even more.

If all of this happens and they play defense, this team could make it to the second week of the NCAA Tournament and even to the Final Four.  But that's a lot of "ifs."  I would gladly "settle" for the second week.  

 

 

nerv

October 16th, 2016 at 2:44 AM ^

Well Donnal will certainly open the season as the starter and really should. But if Mo shows he can stay on the floor, keeping his energy up and fouls down, then he'll be starting by conference play. I think Beilein has shown he will play the best players.

ST3

October 14th, 2016 at 2:55 PM ^

Brian usually does something like this for his football previews:

2016 Walton > 2015 Walton

2016 Irvin > 2015 Irvin

But based on this sentence "Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin... have seemingly hit their ceilings"

I'm guessing you'd put the comparisons as:

2016 Walton = 2015 Walton

2016 Irvin = 2015 Irvin

But then you state, "Derrick Walton improved his offensive rating by double digits as a junior with the same level of usage." That's not indicative of someone hitting their ceiling. And we all know that Irvin was coming back from back surgery and that affected his play. I think I'm going with my ">" over your "=".

Looking at the rest of the starting 5,

'16 MAAR > '15 MAAR

'16 Duncan ~ '15 Duncan, unless he can develop other parts of his game

'16 Donnal & '16 Wagner > '15 Donnal & '15 Doyle. This could even be a ">>" if Moe fulfills the hype that exists around here for him. So if this team is better across the board, how is it hard to envision a leap into the top tier? What defines the top tier to you? Top 3? 14-15 conference wins? Because I can easily see them settling in the top 4-5 teams in the conference with 12+ conference wins. In reading through the other teams that have been profiled so far, I'm seeing more questions than Michigan has right now.

WindyCityBlue

October 14th, 2016 at 3:32 PM ^

The way I look at it is:

2016 Walton = 2015 Walton

2016 Irvin = 2015 Irvin

(yep, I'm one of those that think that they Walton and Irvin hit thier ceiling)

2016 MAAR > 2015 MAAR

2016 Duncan = 2015 Duncan.  I agree with you here - he's gotta find another part of his game to lean on.

2016 Moe >> 2015 Moe.  This is really going to determine if we improve or not this year

2016 Donnal > 2015 Donnal.  But that's not saying much.

Shop Smart Sho…

October 14th, 2016 at 7:14 PM ^

I think this comes from the people writing here having no idea how much a back injury destroys your athletic ability.  I spent the better part of 2 years dealing with sciatica before finally having a micro discectomy this summer.  My doctor told me it would be 3-4 months before I could begin to do anything physical, and 12-14 months before I would be back to where I was before the injury.  I understand that Irvin is younger and more athletic than me, with access to better rehab, but there are limits in how quickly you can heal from something like that.  

I was DII college tennis prospect, so it's not like I'm an unathletic couch potato.  I can kind of compare myself to what Irvin has to deal with.  I would assume we'll see him get back, physically, to where he was his sophomore year, as long as he didn't do any permanent damage.

champswest

October 14th, 2016 at 4:30 PM ^

16 Robinson > 15 Robinson (he will improve shooting %, rebounding and defense)

and I would add 16 bench > 15 bench

and 16 assistant coaches > 15 assistant coaches.

I think this team finishes in the top 5 of the B1G.

MartinHD

October 14th, 2016 at 3:42 PM ^

Teske is listed on the roster at 7'0', 245 pounds.  That is the exact same size that Andrew Bogut was listed as on Utah's roster the year he won Player of the Year awards (2004-'05).  Although Teske may lose playing time to Davis or even be redshirted in favor of Davis, I don't think it will be because of his size (lack of girth). 

I am excited by the prospect of having a rim protecting shot blocker on defense, which should force opponents to take more "tough twos," and hope Teske gets the chance to play this year.   

Steves_Wolverines

October 14th, 2016 at 3:58 PM ^

This team will shock many this year. Surpisngly to me, it may be a shock to many of this fanbase. 

When they outright win the B1G Regular Season, win the B1G Tourney, and make an Elite 8 run, I'll be here saying I told you so. 

This team is LOADED with experience that Beilein has never had here at Michigan. They have experience with success (as freshman), and disappointment. They have chips on their shoulders, and will straight ball out this year.

The bench is improved 10x this year. Every other starter from last year is going to be a better version of themselves this season.

We brought in new coaches, which everyone seems to think is an upgrade. New voices in the locker room will pay huge dividends, especially for halftime adjustments. 

This team has everything you look for in a championship team except a one-and-done guy. That didn't seem to prevent Villanova from winning it all last year. 

Go Blue! Go Beilein! Go Irvin and Walton! Best duo in the B1G this year. 

Steves_Wolverines

October 14th, 2016 at 4:33 PM ^

The only thing that could stop this team is the injury bug hitting Irvin and/or Walton.

There isn't a team in the B1G that I fear compared to our lineup. Now Nationally, that's another story (Duke, UK, UNC)

ST3

October 14th, 2016 at 6:22 PM ^

I'll grant you that Wisconsin appears to be the favorite. After that, it's a bunch of question marks. Dienhart has Indiana and MSU following them at 2 and 3. They have a lot to replace. I'd say Purdue looks to be better than us if they can get good guard play. He's got us at 5. I'd take 5 out of a 14 team conference as that gets us into the dance. I think we have a chance to finish ahead of IU and/or MSU. A ceiling of 3rd place isn't bad. It's not what we expect from the football team, but let's be honest, Beilein has outperformed the football team over the last decade.

http://btn.com/2016/10/13/how-will-they-finish-tom-dienhart-offers-his-…

Low Key Recidivist

October 14th, 2016 at 5:30 PM ^

For someone who covers the team, the analysis is a bit thin, and while this site loves them some analytics (lies, damn lies, and statistics), I expected a bit deeper dive than their stats from last year.  You have 5 starters returning, one of whom was playing coming off an injury and three being first year starters.  At the very least, you figure there will be incremental improvement.

They lose basically all their 3 depth, but so what? That's more than compensated by actually having a backup point guard who also has a reputation as a tenacious defender.  This is a HUGE differentiator; UM overplayed Walton to the point of exhaustion last year, and when he got into foul trouble, UM had a walk-on to back him up.  JB's already hinted that we'll likely see some 2 PG sets, so in spite of his hand wringing about the freshman learning curve, I have to believe he likes what he's seeing from the X-man.  At least a 1 game conference swing IMO.

Moe Wagner is IMO the X-factor for the season and was hardly mentioned.  Kid has a big upside and if he can learn better defensive technique, he'll give the team some serious juice in post playmaking ability as well as defensive/offensive rebounding.  His development IMO is a 2-3 game conference swing.  We'll see you it plays out.

They also have 2 new assistants, one with a well earned reputation for teaching defense; like you, I'm in wait and see mode here.  Generally, those cultural changes take a year or two to sink in.

You don't fight new wars with the last war's tactics, but generally that's what most preseason predictions are based on.  I get that.  I think this team has more ceiling than you're giving them credit for.  (FWIW - I think Illinois will be much better as well.)

Bottom line: conference is weaker (or at least less experienced) than last year and I expect UM to have a minimum of 2 and up to 4 game swing in their record from last year.  That should give them a fighter's chance for the conference title and put them comfortably in the tourney.  In 4 months, I may be getting hit by a lot of rotten tomatoes, but that's how I see it.

Stringer Bell

October 14th, 2016 at 5:46 PM ^

We had a backup PG last year, he just got injured.  So if that happens again we're in the same situation.  Hopes are high for Simpson but truth is he is a freshman, and not one of those bonafide, can't miss 5 star prospects, so no one knows what to expect from him his first year.

Yeah we have a lot of experience returning, but all those experienced players were kinda lucky to make the tournament last year and snuck in as one of the last 4 teams.  And yeah you can say "well Caris and Spike were out" but those guys aren't walking through that door this year.  It's now or never for Walton and Irvin to step up and take charge of this team.  I agree with you that Wagner will be a huge piece of this team, and I really liked what I saw from him in the postseason.  Hopefully he can continue to progress and fill the Jordan Morgan role for this team.

Low Key Recidivist

October 14th, 2016 at 6:04 PM ^

Xavier isn't coming off double hip surgeries; I'm looking for wood to knock on, but losing him would be an unlikely occurence.  Simpson was comfortably in the concensus top 100; consistent outside shooting and size were concerns, but game management and defense are strengths.  No knock on Andrew Dakich, but do you really think he's going to perform better than X?

Without Caris et al, UM made the tourney.  Injured players not factored into the analysis.  JB has a very good track record of player development; odds are that this will be a better team this year.

blue90

October 14th, 2016 at 6:37 PM ^

There have been a few years in the past where we should have been a Sweet 16 team and weren't because of random crap that happened.  The same can be said for this team.  If nothing bad happens then I can see them as a Sweet 16 contender, not guaranteed.

Walton and Irvin are both strong players but again, not being able to drive to the hoop consistantly is a major problem for this team, save Maar.  Beilein's offense is not a drive sort of offense but it is necesarry sometimes and we have had an incredibly difficult time doing so.

There is no doubt our defense will be better, I cannot see us regressing given how much of an emphasis it garnered.  If everyone takes control more on the offensive side, we're good to challenge almost anyone, though it remains to be seen.  I see us in the top 5 of the Big Ten, 3-5 is more likely than 1-2.  Cannot wait for the season.  Go blue.

Richard75

October 14th, 2016 at 9:44 PM ^

There have? There was that one year when U-M was a 4 seed and got upset by Ohio, but other than that, I'm not sure when Michigan should've gotten to the Sweet 16 but didn't. The LeVert-led teams never looked remotely Sweet 16-caliber when he was healthy.

As for the defense...I don't know. Presumably it'll be somewhat better on effort alone, but a big part of the problem is U-M just isn't built to stop people. Athleticism and shot-blocking are still severely lacking.

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Richard75

October 15th, 2016 at 8:39 AM ^

What you have to remember about this team is just how overmatched it has been against quality competition.

Over the past two seasons, U-M has played 30 games against top-50 kenpom teams. Michigan's record: 6-24. 20 of the losses were by double digits. All of the wins were by seven or less. 6-24 is actually fortunate—it easily could've been worse than that.

We can rationalize all we like about how those teams expected to have LeVert, and then had to shift on the fly after he got hurt. The fact remains that we're still in much the same place talent-wise. Next season might be different when Matthews hits the floor, but for now, I don't see how one can project anything better than another year on the bubble.

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AlwaysBlue

October 15th, 2016 at 11:52 AM ^

they have coped with early departures and injuries to Walton, Irvin, Caris and Spike. Having two of them healthy along with a credible backup PG that will allow Beilein to use Walton more effectively will improve the team. Wagner, who hadn't played a minute of US basketball when he joined the Wolverines, will make them better at the 5 than they have been in 2 years. Robinson will be better for his experience. He will get his shots out of a better functioning offense that never adjusted to Caris' absence last season. Add an improved defense, not a lock down but improved defense, along with Beilein's smarts and it's not a rationalization to expect this team to be better. If Ibi and DJ can provide credible minutes off the bench prospects for the season are even brighter.

991GT3

October 16th, 2016 at 11:55 AM ^

This team is mediocre and will finish in the middle of the pack. It will require great effort for them to make the NCAA tournament. There is absolutely nothing to get excited about this team.

Chalk this up to the Harbaugh affect. Being average just doesn't cut it. .

Padog

October 17th, 2016 at 9:34 AM ^

We've already made the tournament with this team.

We substitute Doyle and Chatman for Teske and Davis,

Watson for Dawkins

Simpson for Spike

Irvin was hurt for the beginning of last season and it was obvious.

Beilein has the track record of development, and we are returning our entire starting lineup. Small increases in each of the returning players gets us to 25 wins pretty easily in my opinion.

Hotel Putingrad

October 17th, 2016 at 11:12 AM ^

but having a bench of 4 freshmen, Donnal and Dakich does not inspire a lot of confidence as the season wears on. If God forbid anything happens to Irvin, this team is dead in the water. RAAK and an emerging Simpson could get us to the NIT, but that's about it. I just see us getting pounded on the glass by MSU, Wisconsin, Purdue, and IU, same as the last two years. Robinson could be the x-factor if Donlon is able to teach him how to stay in front of his man and fight through screens.