|No. 5 Michigan|
Coach: John Beilein
Career record: 642-395 at Erie CC, Nazareth, Le Moyne, Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan
Best NCAA Tournament finish: Elite Eight, 2005 (West Virginia)
Years at current school: 5
|Vital Info: No. 5 Michigan|
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Last season's record: 24-10 (lost to Ohio in the second round)
Notable returnees from last season: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Matt Vogrich, Eso Akunne
Notable losses from last season: Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz
Notable newcomers: Mitch McGary, Glenn "Tre" Robinson, Nik Stauskas
Projected starters: G -- Trey Burke, G -- Tim Hardaway Jr., G -- Matt Vogrich, F -- Glenn "Tre" Robinson, C -- Jordan Morgan
Why this team will be good: For the most part, John Beilein has been consistently successful despite not having a lot of elite talent on his roster. This year, he has the players to compete with anyone in the country. Trey Burke is one of the best point guards around, and Tim Hardaway Jr. should be poised for a bounce-back season. Jordan Morgan returns inside. Much of the optimism, though, comes from the newcomers: top-100 recruits Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas. All three are expected to make immediate contributions.
With the way Beilein teams play, the Wolverines will be difficult to beat. They slow down the pace and knock down 3-pointers at a high rate. Throw in the influx of athleticism and size, and Michigan gets even tougher at the offensive end. There's star power in Burke, secondary options, shooting, size -- Beilein has everything at his disposal this season. That could be scary.
Why this team might disappoint: Michigan isn't without holes, of course. The Wolverines lose three players who started at least 18 games last season, including four-year guys Zack Novak and Stu Douglass. Both Novak and Douglass provided leadership and experience during their time in Ann Arbor -- who replaces those attributes? Of the players expected to get significant playing time, there is only one senior and two juniors. Moreover, although there is more size this season, it will be interesting to see if Beilein adjusts his lineups. Michigan has done a good job stretching the defense with four shooters in the past; starting two bigs would eliminate some of those mismatches.
Defensively, Michigan struggled to guard the perimeter last season, and the Wolverines were also a poor rebounding team, especially on the offensive end. They can become overly reliant on the 3-point shot; they need to attack the rim and make plays in the paint more often.
Bottom line: Michigan is an intriguing team this season. Over the past few years, the Wolverines have been a difficult matchup for opponents because they put four shooters on the floor and spread out defenses. This year, Beilein has far more weapons to diversify his offense. Burke and Hardaway can create their own shots, while Robinson should be a major factor as a slasher. Moreover, a healthy Jon Horford and the addition of McGary gives Beilein more size than he's used to having. Of course, there are still shooters in freshman Nik Stauskas and senior Matt Vogrich. The key for the Wolverines will be how well -- and how quickly -- the talent and the system mesh.
They do need to overcome a few issues, though. Hardaway has to play more consistently this season. Morgan needs to stay out of foul trouble. The freshmen have to make an impact. Someone has to step up as a leader. If everything comes together, Michigan will be a problematic opponent in the NCAA tournament.
Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "When you play a system like Michigan, you're always going to be in the game because there's a limited amount of possessions. Beilein has always had bigs who can shoot the ball, multi-dimensional guys. You have to take away the shooting. I think with McGary coming in, it could be a different look than what he's used to. But in his system, it's not always the most talented guys that are going to shine.
"They're not going to deviate from what they do. He'll probably play McGary and another big together, but that's a couple of non-shooters out there. With the percentage of 3-pointers they shoot, they struggle if they don't shoot well. And if they don't shoot well, how well will they rebound? But they'll be pretty good. Burke and Hardaway are two of the 10, 15 best players in the league. The Big Ten is going to beat everyone up, but it's a breath of fresh air in the NCAA tournament. It's all about matchups."