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Michigan Preview

by Chris Mackinder | November 29th, 2007

2006-2007 Record: 22-13 (8-8 Big 10, T-7th)
Postseason Games:

3/8/2007 Minnesota Big Ten Tournament W 49-40
3/9/2007 Ohio State Big Ten Tournament L 72-62
3/13/2007 Utah State NIT W 68-58
3/15/2007 Florida State NIT L 87-66

Returning Statistical Leaders:
5.7 ppg – Ron Coleman, Jerret Smith
4.0 rpg – Ekpe Udoh
3.4 apg – Jerret Smith

Starting Lineup: Key Stat:
C Zack Gibson 6’10 So. 68 FG% through six games
PF DeShawn Sims 6’8 So. In 6 games, 2.0 steals+blocks per game
SF Ron Coleman 6’6 Sr. Played less than 20 mins in last 7 games in ’06-‘07
SG Manny Harris 6’5 Fr. Michigan’s best prep player last year
PG Kelvin Grady 5’11 Fr. 9-for-17 shooting 3-pointers this season

Key Player Losses: Dion Harris (13.4 ppg, 3.6 apg), Courtney Sims (11.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Lester Abram (9.1 ppg), Brent Petway (5.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg). We won’t call them the Fab Four, but this was Michigan’s core for the past four seasons. It might not be the worst thing to see a group of new blood on the court as this group, for as talented at it was, couldn’t get one taste of the NCAA Tournament.

Impact Newcomer: Manny Harris. Harris is a gem–the kind of athlete rival Michigan State usually secures. But Harris chose Big Blue over Big Green and will see playing time right away in new coach John Beilein’s system. He has All-Big Ten potential and should develop into one of the best guards in the conference in the near future.

Tough Question: Do current players fit in Beilein’s system? Remember that Beilein turned Kevin Pittsnogle into a household name. If Sims and other big men can step out and shoot 3-pointers, the Wolverines might not have issues transitioning from Tommy Amaker’s motion offense to Beilein’s system.

Too Much PT: Ekpe Udoh. He’s a shot-blocking machine but 20 minutes a game in this system seems unjustified. If Michigan is holding a lead late and needs to tighten the defense, Udoh should be on the floor. But if the Wolverines are trailing, which they likely will be doing much of the season, his shot blocking won’t help Michigan score points.

Get Him on the Floor: Jerret Smith. Smith should be the first player off the bench. He can shoot threes, he’s a decent ball handler, and he’s a solid defender.

Point Guard Impact: Grady will make freshman mistakes but his talent alone should make Michigan basketball exciting. Smith, if he continues shooting well, will be an asset to the new-look Michigan.

Final Word: If the Wolverines couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament with last year’s team, how the heck should anyone expect this team to crash the Field of 65? Finishing the season with a winning record should be Beilein’s goal, along with getting the underclassmen to buy into his system. Eventually, just like his teams at Richmond and West Virginia, Michigan will wreak havoc on the Big Ten and even the nation. But that takes talent and players with experience. Michigan doesn’t have the right combination, yet. A deep run in the NIT would make the 2007-08 season a successful one.

–Chris Mackinder

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