No. 19: Michigan Wolverines

0 Comments

Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 21-14 (9-9), 4th in Big Ten (tied)
Lost in NCAA tournament second round

Coach: John Beilein, 67-67, 5th year (360-242 overall)

Last NCAA miss: 2010

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: Oh, that talented young roster. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan give Beilein two of the Big Ten’s best players, which as Purdue showed last season, can be the difference between a middling year and a good one.

Granted, Hardaway and Morgan aren’t E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (who is?), but the ability’s there. The 6-5 Hardaway emerged as a reasonably efficient high-usage scorer who boasted a low turnover rate and played a ton of minutes. And Morgan? If not for Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, he’s be the best conference’s best big man.

Surround those two with guys who fit Beilein’s system (read: rangy wings who can shoot 3s) like Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz and the Wolverines will once again be a tough team to beat. Ask Duke, Kansas and Ohio State about those games last season.

The bad: Michigan’s an average 3-point shooting team, yet takes more shots beyond the arc than just about any other program. Raising that 35.3 percentage would be an ideal way to create some room for Morgan down low. As is, he’s the only one grabbing offensive rebounds (though that’s by design in the offense).

Then there’s the defense that doesn’t force any turnovers, block many shots or force a lot of bad shots inside the arc.

Yes, this is my way of saying the defense has room to improve.

The unknown: Doing all this would be so much easier if Darius Morris were still around.

The point guard set up nearly everything in Michigan’s offense, as noted by that exceptional ARate. Hardaway figures to have the ball more (will his turnovers rise?), though freshmen Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge will surely get their chance to run the show.

Beilein’s system isn’t overly dependent on a savvy point guard, just guards who can handle the ball and set up his motion offense. But the less Hardaway has to do it, the better.

Counting down the preseason Top 25

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.