Michigan Basketball Preview: #14
Overall Rank: #14
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten Conference
2008-09: 21-14, 9-9
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: John Beilein (31-36 at Michigan, 507-311 overall)
Coach John Beilein does not always have the most talented players, but he gets the job done. He has proven that at his many stops along the way that has led up to his coaching job at Michigan. His work with the Wolverines paid off last year as the team made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years. With the top five scorers returning and a recruiting class that will give Coach Beilein more of his type of players, there is no reason to believe that Michigan will not be dancing again.
Key Losses: G Kelvin Grady, G C.J. Lee, G David Merritt
The recruiting class is highlighted by a couple quality guards. Point guard Darius Morris has the size and skills to play off the ball and shooting guard Matt Vogrich, considered by many to be the best player in the class, should finally give the team a consistent outside shooter. Walk-on Josh Bartelstein is a good shooter too and Eso Akunne will add even more depth on the wings. The frontcourt gets a couple new players who are not too bad either. Blake McLimans is a lanky 6-10 forward who can spread out the defense with his shooting ability and Jordan Morgan could be a banger under the basket if he can stay healthy.
The Wolverines will not be afraid to throw the freshmen right into the mix since that is what they did last year anyway. Three sophomores, along with the freshmen, will fill nearly all the minutes at the point guard and shooting guard spots. Laval Lucas-Perry may be the most important of them all. The 6-3 sophomore started strong once he was eligible to play last year, but fell out of favor due to inconsistent scoring. Zack Novak earned a ton of experience during his freshman campaign, starting 22 games and ranking third on the team with 6.7 points per contest. Stu Douglass proved to be the most capable ball handler of the bunch, dishing out 2.1 assists per game. All three need to be more consistent, especially with their outside shooting, or Coach Beilein will hope his freshmen can get the job done.
The one sure thing in the frontcourt is DeShawn Sims. The 6-8 senior averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds last year. Sims happened to fit in very well in Michigan’s style of play and has seen the benefits. He is not the greatest outside shooting big man, but he is certainly capable of hitting the outside shot and that is exactly what this team does. Anthony Wright is much like Sims in that regard, but he rarely got an opportunity to show his stuff last year. However, this team still needs a post threat and it would be beneficial if it did not have to be Sims. Senior Zack Gibson has the size to be the guy, but he only averaged 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds last year. The other option is redshirt freshman Ben Cronin who only played in two games before going out for the season with an injury.
Who to Watch:
While Sims hangs out on the perimeter, it allows Manny Harris to back down smaller defenders and that is why he has become the team’s best scorer. Harris can do it all. He averaged 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds. 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals last season and should be in for a huge junior campaign. Like the rest of the team, his outside shooting numbers were sub-par, but he does so many other things for this team that it can be overlooked.
But it is the three-point shooting that limited this team during the 2008-2009 campaign. Just about everybody needs to be able to shoot the ball in this system. They all tried last year, but nobody shot over 37 percent from beyond the arc. If Michigan has big dreams of past glory, the team as a whole has to shoot much, much more consistently.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Stu Douglass, Sophomore, Guard, 6.1 points per game
Laval Lucas-Perry, Sophomore, Guard, 6.5 points per game
Manny Harris, Junior, Guard, 16.9 points per game
DeShawn Sims, Senior, Forward, 15.4 points per game
Zack Gibson, Senior, Forward, 3.9 points per game
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