Michigan - a far too early 2010-11 preview - Basketball Junkie
After the Wolverines got to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years following John Bielein’s second year in Ann Arbor, there was a lot of optimism around the 09-10 Michigan basketball season. But after struggling through their non-conference portion of the schedule, the Wolverines were never able to string more than a couple victories together and finished under .500 on the season and out of any postseason tournament plans. And now, with leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Manny Harris headed to the NBA draft a year early and second-leading scorer and leading rebounder DeShawn Sims graduating, Bielein’s team will have to start over from scratch.

The leading returning scorer on the roster is junior swing Zack Novak, a guy who is a pretty perfect fit in this offense: a scrapper, a shooter, an excellent passer and surprising finishing ability. The backcourt will likely be some combination of sophomore point Darius Morris and junior off-guards Laval Lucas-Perry and Stu Douglass, both little more than shooters. Morris is a good penetrating point guard that can get out of control at times; he is also a terrible outside shooter (just 18% on 39 attempts from behind the arc). It is possible all three of those guys will start in the backcourt, although that would leave the Wolverines tremendously undersized. Skinny sophomore shooter Matt Vogrich will also get some minutes in the backcourt, as will incoming shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., an excellent shooter who Bielein would love to see earn major minutes immediately. Sophomore guard Eso Akunne will only see time when the Wolverines dig deep into their bench.

Up front, alongside Novak, Bielein has several unproven big men. Jordan Morgan and Blake McLimans both will be coming off their redshirt years with four years of eligibility remaining, and they will compete for time with incoming freshman fours Evan Smotrycz and Jon Horford. Smotrycz is a versatile four who has been compared to guys like Kyle Singler and Gordon Hayward in the type of game he plays: handles, rebounds, strokes it from range. Horford, brother of former Florida star Al Horford remains a project, but is an athletically gifted big man. Ideally, two of those four will earn starting spots alongside Novak and two guards. Senior Anthony Wright will spell Novak from time to time at the three.

While the talent level in Ann Arbor has seemingly dipped, Harris and Sims were players that Bielein inherited from the previous coaching staff and were made to fit into his system. Most of the remaining players on the Michigan roster belong to this coaching staff, so we’ll get the first chance to see the vaunted Bielein system in action with his own recruits playing the primary role. However, given the youth of the squad, especially in the front court, it would seem that Wolverine basketball is going to take another little dip in the Big Ten standings before starting back up again.

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