Michigan, I am constantly reminded by virtue of living in Columbus, is a football school. Despite that rather ignomious designation, they've also managed to put together quite a decent little basketball program from time to time. Last year was a hiccup, but it broke a string of four consecutive years with a seed of 8 or better in the NCAA tournament and a KenPom ranking of 26th or better. It's clear that they know what they're doing at least a little bit up in Ann Arbor.
I'll be honest: I love John Beilein. The dude flat-out knows how to coach offense. His teams always play really, really slowly, but he has put 6 teams in the top 20 of offensive efficiency in the last 11 years. His offenses are generally defined by two things: they don't ever turn the ball over and they love to shoot threes. The obvious corollaries to those distinctions hold here; Beilein's teams are bad at offensive rebounding and they never get to the line. When those threes are falling though, it doesn't really matter.
Defense is more of a mixed bag. Beilein's teams are always okay on the defensive end without ever being outstanding. His MO at Michigan has been to play safe, generally conceding the arc and eschewing forcing turnovers in return for not sending teams to the line. The middle can be had against his teams, and they've never been that great at defensive rebounding. I guess his teams kind of play into the stereotype of dudes who love to score and can't really be bothered with the dirty work like hitting the glass or playing exceptionally tough defense.
Basically none. Reserve big man Max Bielfeldt transferred out, ending up at Indiana. He was a role player, averaging 5.1/3.6/0.5 on .481/.267/.688 shooting in about 15 minutes per game. Beyond him, everybody who was anybody last year is back for another shot at it.
Let's start with 6'7" rising senior guard Caris LeVert. I knew a girl named Caris in college. LeVert is a better ball player than she was; he went for 14.9/4.9/3.7 on .421/.405/.810 shooting last year before his season was cut short by a foot injury. He's a volume scorer, but he can really put the biscuit in the basket when he gets hot. Joining LeVert on the end of the bench with a foot injury was 6'1" rising junior guard Derrick Walton. He was even more shot happy than LeVert posting a 98.1 ORtg and a 41.7% EFG on his way to 10.7/4.7/3.0 on .346/.358/.833 shooting. Walton and LeVert should be ready to go for the beginning of this season.
Rising junior guard Zak Irvin stands 6'6" and was also fairly inefficient, getting his 14.3/4.8/1.5 on a profligate .402/.355/.697 shooting. He had to take a leading role in the offense with Walton and LeVert down, and he did a decent job of it. You may recall former (and possibly current) media darling Spike Albrecht. He's a rising senior now, and he went for 7.5/2.3/3.9 on .404/.365/.913 shooting. He led the team in assist rate with a very respectable 25.6% and did a doggone good job of staying out of foul trouble.
Rising sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins was actually an efficient offensive player, posting an ORtg of 116.3 on .478/.438/.870 shooting on his way to 7.0/2.1/0.4. He shot well and didn't turn the ball over, but he only got 16.4% of the possessions when he was on the floor. We finally get to a forward with rising junior Ricky Doyle. He's 6'9" and went for 6.1/3.2/0.3 on .612/.000/.609 shooting. He and Dawkins both put up EFG% in the 60% range and eschewed the turnover; they could each take big steps forward this season... if they get more of the ball.
But wait, there's more! Rising sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the team in letters in a name and ran the backup point fairly well in 19 minutes per game. Rising sophomore guard Kameron Chatman is 6'8" and used 21.2% of the possession while on the floor with a payoff of just 3.6/2.5/0.7 with an EFG% of 36.8%. Mark Donnal is a 6'9" rising sophomore forward who shot really well inside and out for a big man and got 3.4 and 2.1 per game in 10.7 minutes. All nine of these guys got at least 10 minutes per game.
I'm counting 6'9" forward DJ Wilson here. Like Edmond Sumner for Xavier, he grabbed a few minutes last season before taking a redshirt. Wilson was a three-star recruit in part due to some back issues, but he appears to have put those behind him for the moment. He added 20 pounds to get up to 240, and his wingspan is a ridiculous 7'3". With a year in the system under his belt, he could be an immediate impact player as a stretch four or even a face-up center.
The other freshman is 6'9" forward Moritz Wagner out of Germany. He averaged 17/5/2 in the German youth league and shot 61% from inside the arc and 30% from beyond it. He is a versatile forward with a good basketball IQ, but he doesn't have explosive athleticism. His offensive game is nuanced, and he is good at finding ways to score against bigger defenders.
Joining those two is 6'8" D3 transfer wing Duncan Robinson. Robinson played one year at Williams College, where he went for a cool 17.1/6.5/1.8 on .557/.453/.878 shooting. His athleticism is going to be a question at the D1 level, but the kid can really score the basketball.
The more I look at this team, the more I think it can be a player on the national scene this year. They need to stay healthy and be a little better with their shot selection, but they had a lot of young guys get good minutes last year and they bring back a very deep squad. I think Xavier will probably be the better team by the time the tournament rolls around, but I'm not sure the Muskies will be favored when they travel to Michigan in November.