Michigan’s second and final exhibition matchup comes tonight at the Crisler Center against the Cardinals of Saginaw Valley State. Here are three things to watch for as the season nears:
- Rotation: Trey Burke will be back in the lineup tonight after serving a one-game suspension last Thursday for a violation of team rules and will certainly be starting over Spike Albrecht, whose play in the first exhibition game exceeded many observers’ expectations. Because this game doesn’t count in the record books, Beilein will probably try to get Albrecht some quality minutes again to prepare him for the regular season, but I wouldn’t expect more than 15-20. Burke needs to get minutes against a different opponent with his teammates both new and old to develop the chemistry that all great teams have. Watch for Beilein to play Burke, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary together on the court for long periods of time. Also pay close attention to the rotation at the two-guard spot. I expect Matt Vogrich to start again, but Nik Stauskas’s play has certainly spoken volumes, and a bigger lineup would likely see Tim Hardaway, Jr. slide down to the shooting guard spot.
- Shooting: The Wolverines, and notably the freshmen, got off to a hot start against Northern Michigan with their three-point shooting in particular, as Spike Albrecht, Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III combined to go 9-for-15 from behind the arc. Was this just a case of getting hot at the right time or will these freshmen continue to light it up from deep? Only time will tell, but with each passing game it will become more evident. Pay special attention to Vogrich, who struggled shooting the deep ball Thursday, going 0-for-4 from three-point land. If Stauskas continues to outshoot him, Beilein may shuffle up the lineup sooner than I thought.
- Defense: With the potential to play a bigger lineup this year, Michigan has some options on both ends of the court, and many expect to see significantly more zone defense being deployed by Beilein when a bigger squad is on the floor. Against Northern Michigan the Wolverines went to the 2-3 zone for a short stretch in the second half, but there wasn’t a whole lot more than that. Watch tonight to see if Beilein mixes up the calls a little bit more on the defensive end, and if so, which zones he plays. The 2-3 will likely be the most utilized zone defense we see this season, but Beilein always has the 1-3-1 in his back pocket as well, and with more length and athleticism, Michigan could be deadly in spurts by switching to the 1-3-1 at times. It certainly won’t be used often, but I think we will see it more than we have over the past couple of years.