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Posts Tagged ‘Josh Bartelstein’

An ode to Team 96, forever winners in our hearts

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013


via MGoBlue.com

Meet Josh Bartelstein, Michigan’s senior captain who played a total of 56 minutes in his Michigan career, none of them meaningful in any game, but all of them significant to his 14 teammates. The blogger and son of a prominent NBA agent, Bartelstein is more likely to represent future professionals than ever get paid to play himself, but the respect this team had for him was immense. No Michigan player was ever more excited to see a made three-pointer than when Bartelstein made either of his two career field goals, one last year and one the year prior.

Meet Corey Person, a fifth-year senior who was offered to come back for one last year this season not because of his on-court production but because of his off-court leadership, and, most likely, his pre-game dance ritual, a staple that will be dearly missed and never forgotten. Person entered graduate school after earning his bachelor’s degree last year, and despite the time commitment he made for such little recognition, Person never once questioned his decision, a sacrifice certainly appreciated by his teammates.

Senior Josh Bartelstein served as team captain this season (MGoBlue.com)

Meet Eso Akunne, another senior who rarely had a direct impact on any game but again stuck it out and never complained. Akunne lost his mother two summers ago to cancer, and was never able to give her a final farewell as she passed away a half-world apart, but his strength and courage contributed to the team’s success perhaps more than any basketball play could have.

Meet Matt Vogrich and Blake McLimans, the fourth and fifth senior veterans of this University of Michigan basketball team. Both Vogrich and McLimans accepted scholarship offers from John Beilein with very little to go off other than one NCAA Tournament appearance and eventually had to accept “role player” spots on the team as younger players’ talent won out. Regardless, neither player once complained to the media or otherwise about a reduction in minutes played and points scored in each of their last three seasons, instead cheering on their teammates and happily playing their part as senior leaders.

Meet Jordan Morgan, a fourth-year junior who will be back for one final swan song next season. Morgan entered the year as a starter and played the role admirably for the most part before injuring his ankle in Michigan’s first loss of the season and never fully recovering health-wise or confidence-wise, eventually seeing his starting spot dissipate as freshman Mitch McGary stole headlines throughout the NCAA Tournament. Nonetheless, Morgan continued to give everything he had and was often the on-court vocal leader of this team and a guy who everyone looked up to despite his struggles. A quiet night in the championship game was aptly preceded for Morgan by his thunderous game-ending dunk in the semifinals over Syracuse.

Meet Max Bielfeldt, who chose to play for Michigan two years ago despite an unclear situation in terms of playing time and his family’s strong allegiances to Illinois. Bielfeldt, a redshirt freshman who must feel like a sixth wheel among the “Fresh Five”, has three years left of eligibility but certainly realizes that his battle for playing time will continue to be an uphill climb as the years continue to pass. Still, the player lovingly referred to as Moose by his fellow teammates was nothing but smiles and laughs throughout Michigan’s post-season run even though he only stepped on the floor for less than one minute the entire time.

Fifth-year senior Corey Person didn't play much but his pre-game dance will be missed (MLive.com)

Meet Jon Horford, a redshirt sophomore who continues to ooze potential but has a ways to go before putting it all together. Horford always seemed to be in positive spirits despite an early-season knee injury (his second in two seasons) and worked his way into productive minutes this year. The younger brother of NBA All-Star Al Horford is often over-shadowed in the media and was often over-matched on the court by stronger, quicker, and more talented big men this year, but Jon still has plenty more basketball to look forward to in Ann Arbor and will continue to put forth full effort every time he steps on the floor. His length and shot-blocking prowess make him an important piece moving forward, and Horford’s final point this year, a made free throw to give Michigan a three-point lead with just 18 seconds left against Syracuse in the first Final Four game, was absolutely crucial, especially considering he had missed the first.

Meet Caris LeVert, the skinniest, youngest, and last member of this year’s freshman class. A former Ohio University commit, LeVert switched his pledge to Michigan after coach John Groce left the Bobcat program and was immediately projected to redshirt this year in order to gain some weight and experience off the court. Early on, however, it was clear that LeVert had too much heart and not enough quit to let that happen, quickly over-taking Vogrich’s minutes by mid-season and going on to make a bigger impact than anyone could have predicted. The lanky 18-year-old was almost always out-muscled by his man and he finished this season with by far the lowest shooting percentage of any regularly-used player, but LeVert’s defense was always praised by coaches and his gutty eight-point performance against Syracuse was the difference between the biggest win and the hardest loss of the season for the Maize and Blue.

Matt Vogrich enjoyed success early in his career but was relegated to the bench this season (MGoBlue.com)

Meet Nik Stauskas, the Canadian sniper that will probably end up being the best shooter Michigan coach John Beilein has ever taught when his career comes to an end. The second commit of this freshman class, Stauskas honed his shooting skills in his cold backyard with the rebounding help of his dad for years as preparation for this – a chance to contribute on a championship-contending team and a potential future NBA career. This year saw its ups and downs for Stauskas, from the amazing 22-point shooting display to lead Michigan over Florida for the South regional title to the measly three combined points in the two Final Four games in Atlanta, but overall it was an incredible year for the calm, confident kid with a bright future in Ann Arbor and beyond.

Meet Spike Albrecht, another unheralded freshman who was brought in as a last-minute emergency plan in case Trey Burke had decided to bolt for the NBA last year. Once Burke announced his plans to return, most assumed that Albrecht would be relegated to a bench-warming spot, and his baby-face looks lent to some confusion as to whether Spike was a player or manager, but the sure-handed and sure-headed 20-year-old set things straight throughout the year with solid contributions in spot minutes. As the year went on, Albrecht seemed to provide more and more on a nightly basis, finally culminating with a captivating 17-point first half performance in the championship game on a brilliant 6-of-7 shooting stretch that stole big minutes on ESPN and stunned college basketball fans around the country – a show that followed a perfect, albeit short-lived, six-point outing in four minutes against Syracuse. Spike has now won over the hearts of many young women and Michigan fans everywhere and will look to build on his already growing legacy with three more years in Ann Arbor and a more prominent spotlight.

Meet Glenn Robinson III, the quiet, athletic freshman assassin. The son of former college great Glenn Robinson, Little Dog was never the focal point of this Michigan offense, but he always seemed to manage double-digit points while grabbing a few rebounds, helping the team to so many victories while never once complaining about not getting as many shots as perhaps he would demand on a lesser team. With his next-level athletic abilities and his knack for finishing around the rim, Robinson has turned the heads of many scouts and faces a decision of whether to declare for the NBA Draft or return to Michigan to work toward completing some unfinished business with the rest of the team. No matter what he decides, Glenn Robinson III has already carved out a spot in the hearts of many Michigan fans after blossoming from a lowly-regarded high school player to a top player on one of the best college teams in the country.

Eso Akunne never played much, but got to enjoy a trip to the finals (detroitnews.com)

Meet Mitch McGary, the freshman big man and ball of energy. After committing to play for Michigan as the second-highest rated high schooler in the country, McGary was expected to star right off the bat, but his learning curve was a little slow. Alas, the 20-year-old struggled academically at his four-year high school in Chesterton, Indiana before transferring far away from home to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before getting his grades in order and refining his basketball game. With time, McGary’s conditioning and overall game improved slowly but surely at Michigan; his energy, on the other hand, has never lacked. As the NCAA Tournament finally rolled around, McGary’s star started to shine bright on the national stage, as he poured in double digit points in five of Michigan’s six games, including a new career high in consecutive games over VCU and Kansas, and recorded double-doubles over the same stretch before slightly struggling to reach the same level in the championship game, where he was hampered with four fouls. McGary, who now finds himself on draft boards with these renewed looks, has a decision to make much like his roommate Robinson’s. If he stays, McGary is seen as a potentially dominant animal in the post, a guy who could conceivably average a double-double, expand his game, and lead Michigan back to the promised land. If he goes, McGary will be seen as a Wolverine whose love of Michigan and passion for tough play have already ingratiated him in the hearts of all Michigan fans.

Meet Tim Hardaway, Jr., the son of NBA legend Tim Hardaway. The junior and second-leading scorer of this Michigan team bounced back from a tough year last year to become a scoring force on offense, a solid defender, and a player who could turn the course of a game with a huge dunk or a streak of three-pointers. Despite some difficult games here and there, Hardaway always seemed to be a steadying force and the seasoned veteran within a lineup full of underclassmen, scoring 10 or more points in all but eight games this year. As a freshman, Hardaway championed Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament after the Wolverines had struggled to a 15-17 mark the year prior to his arrival, and despite his tough shooting year last season, Hardaway has always been a great scorer and a phenomenal team player. Many expect him to forego his last year of eligibility and follow in his dad’s footsteps to the NBA; regardless of what he does, however, Hardaway’s three years so far will never be forgotten, and performances like his 23-point night to beat Ohio State in overtime this season will go down in Michigan history.

Blake McLimans was an important senior leader this season (annarbor.com)

Meet Trey Burke, the one-time no-name prospect and Penn State commit out of Columbus, Ohio. A high school teammate of former Buckeye Jared Sullinger, Burke had always dreamed of playing for Ohio State, but when he was shunned by Thad Matta, he decided to take his talents north and play for John Beilein. Two short years later, Burke has become the best Michigan player in at least 20 years, gaining far too many accolades – including First Team All-American honors and Big Ten, Naismith, and Wooden Player of the Year awards – to list off at once. Last year, Burke’s out-of-nowhere freshman stardom nearly convinced him to take off for the pro ranks after just one season of college, but a talking to from his parents and thoughts of the promise of this year’s team led him back to Ann Arbor, where he put on a show for the ages. Night in and night out, Burke’s cool leadership from the point guard spot led Beilein’s team, and his exceptional team play, his caring for his fellow Wolverines, always stood out to those on-lookers. In retrospect, he was without a doubt the best player on the court every time he suited up for Michigan, and his number will one day hang from the rafters of the Crisler Center. Trey, just like his teammates, was always quick to praise teammates for Michigan’s success, even though it was clear that he was the biggest reason for it. So many of his performances are unforgettable, both for Michigan fans and college basketball fans in general, and his ball-handling prowess, passing, and scoring ability will perhaps never again be matched by a Michigan player. In what will almost certainly be his final collegiate game, Trey Burke again showed why he will always be loved by Michigan fans, scoring 24 points, grabbing four rebounds, and dishing out three assists while his slight 6’0″ frame took a constant beating from the physical Louisville front line. It wasn’t enough, but, like usual, it was more than what could have ever been asked of him.

Meet the 2012-13 Michigan basketball team. In the end, these 15 young men came up just short of the finish line, losing 82-76 in the National Championship after an improbable run through five rounds of the Big Dance. Much like the teams of the early 1990s, they couldn’t match Michigan’s one national title from 1989, and they will not go down in history as the best team in the country in 2013. But they will forever hold a special place in the hearts of all Michigan fans, and rightfully so. Though the last game may have said otherwise, these Wolverines always have been, and always will be, winners in our hearts.

McLimans, Person, Burke, Bartelstein, Hardaway, Morgan and the rest of Team 96 made it to the NCAA Championship game

2012-13 Michigan basketball player previews: the bench

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012


To wrap up our player preview posts, today we will take a look at the five remaining players – Max Bielfeldt, Josh Bartelstein, Corey Person, Eso Akunne, and Blake McLimans – that have not been written about yet. These are guys that will not project to make a significant, tangible impact in on-court minutes but could and should be valuable in a number of other ways off the court and in practice. Some could surprise and play their way into the rotation, but at this point I do not believe they will be regulars in game action. You can view previous player previews here.

Max Bielfeldt
JorNumber: 44
Class: Redshirt Freshman
Major Undecided
Measurements:

6’7″, 245 pounds

Hometown: Peoria, Ill.
High School: Peoria Notre Dame
Position(s): Power Forward

Rundown: Bielfeldt is yet another big body that Beilein will have at his disposal to throw into the mix down low when he sees fit. The redshirt freshman saw a decent amount of playing time in last Thursday’s exhibition game, grabbing three rebounds and recording one block in 11 minutes on the floor, and the biggest thing that Bielfeldt can provide on the court is rebounding; Beilein has raved a number of times about how competitive Bielfeldt is in practice on the boards, which can only help Michigan’s regulars put forth a little extra effort when it counts in the games. Bielfeldt is also someone that has worked hard at developing his outside shot, and while he missed his one three-point attempt in the exhibition game badly, Max could be a threat to stretch the floor when he gets in the game. Most of his minutes this season will likely come if Michigan experiences front court injuries or if Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan, and Jon Horford get into major foul trouble, but Bielfeldt should be in line to increase his role in coming seasons.

Josh Bartelstein
JorNumber: 20
Class: Senior
Major Sport Management
Measurements:

6’3″, 210 pounds

Hometown: Highland Park, Ill.
High School: Phillips Exeter Academy (N.H.)
Position(s): Point Guard, Shooting Guard
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2009-10: 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 2.6 00.0 00.0 00.0
2010-11: 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 14.3 20.0 00.0
2011-12: 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0 1.3 25.0 33.3 00.0
Career Avg: 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.0 1.7 13.3 18.2 00.0

Rundown: Of the players not expected to see many minutes this season, Bartelstein may be the one to make the biggest impact off the court, as he was named the captain of this team prior to last week’s exhibition game. The players decided that Bartelstein was best suited to lead the team in that role, and Beilein mentioned that he has perhaps never coached a player in his career that is more about the team than the senior and son of prominent sports agent Mark Bartelstein. While many teams may take the captain label lightly, that will certainly not be the case at Michigan. We have seen in the past how seriously Beilein considers the captain position and have seen how critical the post has been before, as the 2009-10 team struggled in large part due to a reported lack of leadership. Expect Bartelstein to provide a very vocal presence in the huddle, and even though he doesn’t typically show the fiery side that former co-captain Zack Novak often displayed, Bartelstein is a guy that has been around for a while and knows what Michigan is all about. He’s tough to root against and should really be a key to Michigan’s success this season even though he will only see the court in “garbage” time.

Corey Person
JorNumber: 32
Class: First-year Graduate Student
Major General Studies
Measurements:

6’3″, 210 pounds

Hometown: Kalamazoo, Mich.
High School: Kalamazoo Central
Position(s): Shooting Guard
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2009-10: 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.9 00.0 00.0 50.0
2010-11: 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.0 0.4 0.0 1.8 00.0 00.0 25.0
2011-12: 1.1 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.0 1.1 62.5 00.0 100.0
Career Avg: 0.6 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.0 1.5 55.6 00.0 42.9

Rundown: While Corey Person is not the captain of this team, he will certainly be one of the more outspoken and noticeable players in the huddle, but in a good way. Person always seems to be in good spirits and can always be seen dancing in the huddle before games and giving a unique handshake to each of the starters as they are announced and run onto the floor before tipoff. Corey will rarely see the floor besides at the end of blowouts, but his presence in the locker room should be very valuable to the team, especially the younger players. As a grad student who has been around for five years now, Person’s experience and knowledge of Beilein’s system will make him the player most likely to be deemed “an extra coach” on the team. He will also undoubtedly be selected as a game captain a number of times and will be the first player I have ever known to player in two Senior Days, as this is his last year of eligibility for college sports.

Eso Akunne
JorNumber: 5
Class: Senior
Major Political Science
Measurements:

6’2″, 225 pounds

Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
High School: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard
Position(s): Point Guard
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2009-10: 0.7 0.9 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.1 5.4 66.7 00.0 100.0
2010-11: 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0 2.5 42.9 33.3 00.0
2011-12: 1.7 0.7 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.0 4.0 87.5 80.0 100.0
Career Avg: 0.9 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.0 3.6 66.7 62.5 72.5

Rundown: Eso Akunne is the only player on the roster from Ann Arbor and has played the second most minutes of anyone on this list behind McLimans with 126 total over 35 games. Last season Akunne saw some significant playing time in a couple games in which Trey Burke found himself in foul trouble early on, but his minutes dwindled as the year went on and he sustained an injury that kept him benched throughout the majority of the Big Ten schedule. Akunne finds the majority of his minutes at point guard, and with the addition of Spike Albrecht in the offseason and Albrecht’s fast start in Thursday’s exhibition game, the guard with a linebacker’s body is going to have to beat the newcomer out if he is to see minutes this year. His sometimes shaky handles make it hard for me to believe he will beat out Spike, but Eso did show off an improved jumper last season, shooting 4-5 from behind the three-point line. If he can work his way into a few minutes early on and prove that he is a viable option at the one backing up Trey Burke, he could see extended playing time every now and again. For now, though, his senior leadership should be most valuable.

Blake McLimans
JorNumber: 22
Class: Senior
Major Economics
Measurements:

6’10″, 240 pounds

Hometown: Hamburg, N.Y.
High School: Worcester Academy (Mass.)
Position(s): Power Forward, Center
Career Stats:

PTS REB AST STL TO BLK MIN FG% 3-Pt% FT%
2010-11: 1.2 0.8 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.3 5.4 31.7 05.3 100.0
2011-12: 0.8 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 4.2 47.6 41.7 00.0
Career Avg: 1.0 0.8 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.3 4.8 37.1 19.4 100.0

Rundown: McLimans was a star pitcher who clocked up to 92 mph on his fastball and a good volleyball player throughout his prep career but decided to stick with his favorite sport, basketball, at the next level. Unfortunately for him so far, his basketball career hasn’t gone as planned. He is a prototypical Beilein big man that drew comparisons to one-time West Virginia star Kevin Pittsnogle for his ability to step outside the arc to shoot the three-ball over smaller defenders, but he quickly earned the brutal moniker of being a shooter that couldn’t shoot after making only one of his 19 three-point attempts in his redshirt freshman season. When his struggles continued throughout the season, an audible sigh could sometimes be heard from the crowd when McLimans entered games, but McLimans put in more work in the offseason and came back much better last season, when he made 41.7 percent of his 12 three-point attempts and shot 47.6 percent overall. Despite the improved numbers and effectiveness last year, however, Beilein announced in the offseason that McLimans would be on a four-year path rather than taking a fifth year with a redshirt season in 2009-10 like Jordan Morgan. And much like Akunne’s path to playing time, McLimans will probably begin the season behind the much-hyped McGary on the depth chart and will see the majority of his minutes when the other bigs get in foul trouble or if there are injuries. If Bird continues to improve his numbers, though, he just might sneak into a small rotation spot as a stretch big.

Michigan Basketball Preview: Harris, Sims Look to Lead Wolverines to Big Ten Title

Thursday, November 5th, 2009


With the football team entering the last month of the season, Michigan’s basketball team takes the court in Friday’s exhibition with Wayne State looking to be the toast of Ann Arbor for the second straight year.

*Junior guard Manny Harris hopes to lead Michigan to a Big Ten title

*Junior guard Manny Harris hopes to lead Michigan to a Big Ten title

Michigan basketball has enjoyed success over much of its history and won a National Championship in 1989, but has still always been considered second-rate on campus behind the boys on the gridiron.

But with the recent growing pains of the football program, the rejuvenated basketball program in its third year under head coach John Beilein, enters the season with high expectations. Michigan ranks 15th in the preseason Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, the first time in 12 years it enters the season ranked.

And for the first time in recent history, Michigan fans look forward to the end of football season and the beginning of basketball season.

With a 22-14 record last year, and a return to the NCAA Basketball tournament for the first time in 11 years, a pair of John Wooden All-American candidates and another year of experience for last year’s youth should help the squad challenge for the Big Ten title.

The team:

Guard Manny Harris is the star after leading Michigan in scoring (16.9), rebounding (6.8), assists (4.4), steals (1.2), minutes (32.9) and free-throw percentage (86.3 percent) last season as a sophomore.

The junior from Detroit opted to forego the NBA Draft and return to help Michigan build upon its success.

Harris was named to the 2009-10 Naismith Preseason Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year Watch List in addition to being a candidate for the John Wooden Player of the Year award.

Senior forward DeShawn Sims led the team in blocks (27) and field goal percentage (50.5) and was second on the team behind Harris in points (15.4), rebounds (6.8), steals (1.1) and minutes (30.7) last season.

A true team player, Sims has embodied Beilein’s unselfish system, coming off the bench for nine of Michigan’s games last season, yet still earning All-Big Ten Second Team honors.

Sophomores Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Laval Lucas-Perry give the backcourt experienced returning talent.

Novak was Michigan’s best three-point shooter last season at 34.4 percent and had perhaps his biggest game in leading Michigan to an upset over No. 4 Duke.

Lucas-Perry also shot 34.4 percent from downtown, though on about half as many attempts as Harris and Novak. Lucas-Perry gives Michigan size and quickness at the guard position.

Douglass is a slightly smaller version of Novak, a streaky sharpshooter who averaged 6.1 points per game last season.

Another wing player with a lot of experience is redshirt junior forward Anthony Wright. While his numbers won’t blow anyone away (he averaged just 2.7 points per game last season), Wright came up big in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 14 points against Oklahoma. His experience should pay off this season.

Senior center Zack Gibson returns to fill the middle. The 6-10 forward averaged 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds a year ago and gives Michigan a big man that can occasionally step out and hit the three, although not as well as he seems to think he can. Michigan fans would prefer him to stay inside.

The Newcomers
Darius Morris Eso Akunne Matt Vogrich Josh Bartelstein Blake McLimans Jordan Morgan
DariusMorris EsoAkunne MattVogrich JoshBartelstein BlakeMcLimans JordanMorgan
4 5 13 20 22 52
PG G G G F F
6-4 6-3 6-4 6-3 610 6-8
180 220 180 190 220 240
Los Angeles, Calif. Ann Arbor, Mich. Lake Forest, Ill. Highland Park, Ill. Hamburg, N.Y. Detroit, Mich.
Windward Gabriel Richard Lake Forest Phillips Exeter Academy Worcester Academy Univ. of Detroit Jesuit

Newcomers Darius Morris, Matt Vogrich, Blake McLimans and Jordan Morgan more than make up for the players Michigan lost to graduation (C.J. Lee, Jevohn Shepherd and David Merritt).

Morris is a hotshot point guard recruit out of Los Angeles, Calif. He averaged 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists and was named the John Wooden State Player of the Year as a senior.

Vogrich is another sharpshooter that fits the mold of Beilein’s program perfectly. A 6-4 guard, Vogrich averaged 16.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors for the state of Illinois.

Morgan and McLimans give Beilein a pair of big guys to bolster Michigan’s frontcourt.

Morgan averaged 14.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. He was named to the Detroit Free Press Class A All-State third team as a senior.

McLimans, at 6-10, 220 gives Michigan a much-needed body on the inside. He is somewhat unknown since he didn’t play AAU ball, but appears to be the versatile-type big man Beilein prefers with the ability to shoot from the outside.

Another player that could play a role is sophomore center Ben Cronin. At 7-0, 265, Cronin is the biggest player on the roster and runs the court well for a big guy. If he can stay healthy (he had hip surgery on Jan. 14), Cronin will be a big help, especially once the physical play of the Big Ten season begins.

The schedule:

The schedule stacks up slightly tougher than in recent years and should provide a good barometer of how good this Michigan team really is.

Creighton, Marquette, Xavier, and Florida State all await Michigan early on in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.

In this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Michigan hosts Boston College on Dec. 2, a team that needs to find its identity after losing Tyrese Rice. This should be Michigan’s first win in the challenge since beating Miami in 2005.

Games to Watch
Date Team Rank Location Time TV
Thu. Nov. 26 Creighton Orlando, Fla. 12 p.m. ESPN2
Sat. Dec. 19 Kansas 1 Lawrence, Kan. 1 p.m. ESPN
Sun. Jan. 17 Connecticut 12 Ann Arbor, Mich. TBA CBS
Sat. Jan. 23 Purdue 7 West Lafayette, Ind. 4 p.m. ESPN
Tue. Jan. 26 Michigan State 2 Ann Arbor, Mich. 7 p.m. ESPN
Sat. Feb. 27 Ohio State 16 Columbus, Ohio TBA ESPN or BTN

Michigan also travels to Utah and Kansas before beginning the Big Ten portion of the schedule, and hosts No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 17.

Last season, Michigan put up a good fight against Connecticut, losing by just eight on the road after leading 34-33 at halftime. This year, Michigan gets the Huskies at home, where it upset No. 4 Duke a year ago.

Once the Big Ten season starts, the schedule doesn’t get any easier.

Rival Michigan State ranks 2nd in the nation after falling to North Carolina in the national championship game last March, and features the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, Kalin Lucas.

Purdue will also be a formidable opponent as the Boilermakers enter the season ranked 7th in the nation. A Sweet Sixteen team a year ago, Purdue is led by versatile 6-8 forward Robbie Hummel, who averaged 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season.

Ohio State comes in at No. 16 in the nation, and looks to absolve its early exit from last season’s NCAA Tournament. Jon Diebler, Evan Turner, David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale return to give Ohio State experienced talent all over the court.

Illinois and Minnesota also enter the season in the Top 25, at 23rd and 25th, respectively. Both are very well coached teams that fared well last season. Illinois has to find leadership to replace point guard Chester Frazier and shooting guard Trent Meacham, while Minnesota brought in a highly regarded recruiting class to complement seniors Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson.

Outlook:

Last year’s team lived and died on two things: three-pointers and free throws.

In 22 wins, Michigan shot 36.8 percent from downtown and 76.7 percent from the free throw line, while getting to the line 19 times per game.

*Senior DeShawn Sims averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebouds per game last season

*Senior DeShawn Sims averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebouds per game last season

In 14 losses, Michigan shot just 29.5 percent from three and 72.7 percent from the foul line, while getting to the line just under 12 times per game.

The ability to knock down the three and get to the free throw line is key for Michigan since its strength is in the backcourt.

Harris is at his best when he’s driving to the basket, picking up fouls. He shot 204 free throws last year, making 176 of them. That’s nearly twice as many made free throws as the next closest player, DeShawn Sims, had attempts (93).

The guys that accounted for many of the three-point attempts, Novak, Douglass, and Lucas-Perry (43 percent combined) were freshmen last season, which according to the Big Ten Geeks is good news for this season.

Their research shows that college basketball players make their most improvement from their freshman to sophomore seasons.

If that holds true, and if freshman Darius Morris can perform adequately at point guard, Michigan should be in for another good season.

Making the NCAA Tournament should not be the goal for this year’s team, as it should be a virtual lock. Challenging for the Big Ten title should be.

While Michigan has the ability to beat anyone in the nation on any given night, it must prove it can win on the road.

I predict a 21-9 season (12-6 in the Big Ten) with splits against Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and losing both games to Michigan State and out-of conference losses to Utah, Kansas, and one of the games in the Old Spice Classic.

Obviously I hope it’s better than this, but I prefer to lean toward the safe side, due to still having a lot of youth in the backcourt and no proven inside presence. That way I can be pleasantly surprised if the team overachieves.

A return trip to the NCAA Tournament as a mid seed and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen should be considered a realistic goal for this team.

All-in-all, it should be an exciting season for Michigan basketball.