Season Preview: Michigan
Last Season: 26-12, NCAA Sweet 16
Key Losses: DJ Wilson, Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton Jr.
Key Additions: Jordan Poole, Isaiah Livers, Charles Matthews
The Michigan Wolverines basketball team had an eventful 2016-2017 campaign. For the first half of Big Ten play, many people just couldn’t get a grasp on this basketball team. They appeared to be just an ordinary, middle of the pack B1G team, until the breakouts of DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner. Coming into last season, everyone knew Michigan’s backcourt would be solid with Walton, Irvin, Robinson, and Abdur-Rahkman. What they had been missing for the past few seasons was positive production from its frontcourt. When that switch flipped on for Wilson and Wagner last season, we saw a completely different basketball team. Winning seven straight games heading into a Sweet 16 matchup against Oregon, there were several analysts who thought Michigan would make it down to the Final Four. They fell to the Ducks, but playing great to end the season, there was positive momentum built up for this upcoming season.
Looking ahead at this season, there will be a few question marks surrounding this basketball team. The biggest being, “Who replaces the production of Walton and Irvin in the backcourt?” Xavier Simpson appears to be the only true point guard option with any past experience. I’m sure that role will be shared with Simpson, Watson, and incoming Freshman Jordan Poole. Poole is a very intriguing prospect; definitely one of the 5 best shooters in the 2017 recruiting class, he will be able to stretch opposing defenses to allow room for Wagner to operate in the post. The addition of Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews will be big for Coach Beilen. Matthews is a very talented kid, with good size, but wasn’t able to prove himself on the Kentucky bench. He will provide much needed scoring for the Wolverines. The other concern for Michigan is its frontcourt depth. They have what could be an All-Big Ten player in Mo Wagner, but who else do they have behind him? Guys like Freshman Isaiah Livers, Brent Hibbits, or Austin Davis will be looked to fill out the frontcourt. Wagner will definitely dominated frontcourt minutes, but these other guys will have to step up and make contributions when he is on the bench.
Mo Wagner is by far the heartbeat of this Michigan team. His versatility and knack for being in the right spot will be crucial for the Wolverines to have a solid season. Flash back to the NCAA Tournament game against Michigan where Wagner scored a career high 26 points against arguably the best defensive team in the country. I believe that is just a taste of what the crafty German will show us this upcoming year.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Xavier Simpson
SG: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman
SF: Charles Matthews
PF: Isaiah Livers
C: Moritz Wagner