No changes to the roster we talked about in the spring. Moritz Wagner did manage to clear admissions, so he will be on the team, though it’s unclear as to whether he’s heading for a redshirt or not at this stage…seems as if it could go either way at the moment. They also missed on Jaylen Brown, who was still an option for them at the point I wrote in April.
On the injury front, Zak Irvin is recovering from back surgery. While the timetable being discussed would put him back on the floor sometime soon after the start of the season, back injuries are notoriously difficult to predict in terms of outcome. That’s a significant situation to keep an eye on, as Irvin is pretty clearly the #2 scoring option for Michigan behind Levert. His absence or ineffectiveness would be damaging. On the positive side, it appears that Spike Albrecht, Caris Levert and Derrick Walton are all more or less 100% after recovering from injury and/or surgery.
I have Michigan in a three way logjam for 4th with Wisconsin and Purdue at 11-7 in the league. I think it looks very much like a standard issue John Beilein team…how well they fare will come down to whether their offense is just good or REALLY good. Defensively, it’s hard to imagine their being anything better than mediocre because he doesn’t coach it and he doesn’t have the roster to overcome that lack of attention to the defensive end.
So what are the chances this is a REALLY good offensive team, like top 10 in efficiency nationally-good? I think they’ve got a shot at it but it’s going to require health and some development in some younger players. You know what you’re getting with guys like Levert, Walton, Little Spike and a healthy Irvin. What could take this team up a notch is if someone like Doyle can improve his ability to catch and finish off the pick and roll, something he struggled with last season but which was a key component of those great Beilein offenses 2 and 3 years ago with McGary and Morgan filling that role. Can Duncan Robinson live up to the hype surrounding him as a dead eye jumpshooter? Can he do anything else? Can young guys like Dawkins and MAAR continue to develop and expand their offensive games? This is a team which on the surface seems to have a lot of possibilities on the offensive end, with a lot of guys who have shown at least some ability to put the ball in the hole with regularity.
I expect them to bounce back from last season’s debacle, health permitting. If they’re operating at close to full strength, this is a dangerous team which could hang a loss on anyone in the conference on a given night. I have them a notch below the true title contenders because I can’t bring myself to assume they’ll be elite offensively, which is what they have to be in order to win or come close to winning the Big Ten. I expect them to be really good on that end, but keep in mind, the years where Beilein has really done well have been ones where Michigan was at or near historically elite levels in terms of offensive efficiency. I have a hard time saying I *expect* quite that level of execution out of them. Of course, improvement on the defensive end would reduce the pressure on the offense to be unreal, but I’ve never seen evidence that Beilein is likely to produce that kind of shift in terms of checking people.