November 8, 2007

Big Ten Basketball Preview - Michigan

Michigan is one of 3 Big Ten Schools with a new head coach. Coach Beilein brings a unique offensive system to Michigan. It has elements of the Princeton offense but it isn't as complex. In a nutshell they spread you out and it is important that everyone can shoot (even big men, think Kevin Pittsnogle!). That is the interesting piece to this year's Michigan puzzle. They weren't the worst shooting team in the Big Ten but finishing ahead of Northwestern isn't anything to brag about.

I am never a fan of teams that employ a zone as a primary defense, but I am a fan of teams that switch things up. Beilein will move between a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 to keep offenses off balance. This I like and those zones are very different in how they attempt to slow down and knock offenses off rhythm. The 2-3 is your traditional zone that attempts to cut down penetration and the outside shot. The problem is if you run it for more than several possessions teams find your holes and scoring becomes easy. The 1-3-1 is a defense that defends passing lanes and most offenses are not as prepared to find the holes in this zone. Before I break into Xs and Os, the point is that changing things up is great and keeps offenses off balance.

PG - Jarret Smith -good PG with a solid jump shot. Described as a distributor and a role player who needs to do more. Beside's shooting woes, turnovers contributed to Michigan's slide after an 11-1 start to the season. Smith will play a pivotal role in reversing that trend.

SG - Ron Coleman - Coleman could start as a big SG or move to SF and Morris or Harris becomes the SG. Coleman is the lone senior on scholarship and will have to step up his game to lead by example.

SF - DeShawn Sims (pictured right) - former Mr. Basketball in Michigan (2006), currently a sophomore who could have a breakout season. Beilein believes Sims is an excellent shooter with range so expect Sims to be a primary scorer on this Michigan team. In their exhibition game Sims was the only player to attempt more than 4 shots from behind the arc connecting on 3/6 to finish with 14 points. He is a good pick for your B10 fantasy basketball team (I kid, I kid).

PF - Ekpe Udoh - 6'10" sophomore who really was better than expected as a freshman. Last year's 6th man who averaged 5 ppg, 4 rpg and 2 blocks. Not sure how he'll fit into Beilein's offensive system, but he is a talented big man who can really alter things in the paint. May come off the bench and Morris will slide into the starting lineup. That will make Michigan smaller but also a better shooting team.

C - Zach Gibson -6'10" soph, transfer from Rutgers. Started in team's exhibition game. Adds some size to the lineup, but I don't know much about Gibson.

Key Bench - K'Len Morris -redshirt freshman scoring guard. Morris is a scorer and will probably be given every opportunity to grow into Beilein's system. Started exhibition game last week.
Key Bench - Manny Harris - another Michigan Mr. Basketball (2007) is a slasher and scorer. Another decent freshman who will contribute a lot.
Key Bench - Anthony Wright - redshirted freshman from Oak Hill Academy. The 6'6" F will be a key frontcourt player off the bench for the Wolverines. Another nice piece but young.
Key Bench - Jevohn Shepherd - 6'5" junior wing
Key Bench - Kelvin Grady - 5'11" freshman PG

Prediction - Questions about PG and talent in the paint lead me to a less than rosey picture for Michigan basketball. Ultimately what jumps out at me is "square pegs (Michigan roster) and round hole (Beilein's system)." The experienced players don't really fit Beilein's system and those who do are young and unproven. I think given time Michigan can once again be a factor in the Big Ten, but losing 4 starters from a team that finished 8-8 in conference last year means a step backwards to me.

They'll benefit from only playing MichSt and Indiana only once each but I'm still calling a 6-12 season for the Wolverines. 0-6 against the top 4 teams then splitting with the rest of the league sounds about right to me.


Anonymous said...

K'Len Morris is from Flint, so I don't think he went to Oak Hill.

Tom said...

thanks, I realized that and was hoping I could correct before somebody commented.