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Christmas Wish List: Michigan hopes to bolster interior this holiday season

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Interior Depth

What do you get a team that has (almost) everything? The Wolverines have three legitimate scorers, among them one of the nation’s best point guards, Trey Burke. They have a three-point threat in freshman Nik Stauskas, who is shooting nearly 55 percent from behind the arc. They have rebounders with Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary. They don’t turn the ball over. They’re in the Top 10 in the country in shooting percentage.

But outside of McGary and Morgan, especially considering Saturday’s injury to Jon Horford, Michigan is thin on the front line. Coach Jon Beilein started Burke, three wings, and Morgan against West Virginia, with McGary off the bench. Against larger teams in the Big Ten, Beilein may need to boost the minutes of his interior players, but it can only go so far. Despite the weakness, Michigan is a legitimate Top 3 team.

Stocking stuffer: Defense around the rim

The stocking stuffer circles back to Michigan’s lack of depth on the interior. They don’t desperately need it, but they rank 260th in the country in blocks per game as a team with 2.6. Both Morgan and McGary are not shotblocking bigs, though their ability to rebound takes away the sting of not blocking shots. Horford, who dislocated his knee cap Saturday night against West Virginia, is the team’s leading shot blocker with–get this– 0.5 blocks per game. Half a block per game.

Planning on re-gifting: The upcoming Big Ten schedule

Despite their early success, the Wolverines will have a grueling Big Ten slate when conference play roles around. As it stands now, Michigan will play nine of its 18 conference games against teams ranked in the nation’s Top 20, including on the road against No. 7 Ohio State, No. 13 Minnesota, No. 10 Illinois, No. 1 Indiana, and No. 19 Michigan State.

The conference schedule begins Jan. 3 against Northwestern.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.