2012-13 Division I College Basketball Preview: Michigan enters the season with huge national expectations

October 24, 2012 in Division I

It’s hard to believe, but college basketball season is almost here. This week, we’ll preview Michigan’s seven Division I schools.

By Pardeep Toor

At a glance

Overview

John Beilien likely has his most talented team since taking over the Michigan basketball program and has finally recruited a top big man prospect in Mitch McGary.

Strengths

Michigan returns their starting backcourt and one-two scoring punch in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., who combined to average 29.4 points per game for the Wolverines. Both Hardaway and Burke have the ability to get to the rim at will against any defender in the conference although Hardaway Jr. had the NBA-tendency to settle for the fadeaway 18-foot jump shots despite his ability to attack.

The team will be deeper this season with the addition of freshmen Robinson III and McGary, both of whom could play right away and allow veteran Jordan Morgan to come off the bench after he started 33 of 34 games last year.

With the added athleticism in the frontcourt and on the perimeter, Michigan can play less zone on the defensive end of the floor if they choose to, making them a more defensively versatile unit.

Weaknesses

Despite the addition of McGary, the frontcourt may still be an issue against conference rivals Indiana and Michigan State.

The core of this team is still very young but picked up valuable experience in their first round upset loss to Ohio in last year’s NCAA tournament, a game in which both Burke and Hardaway Jr. struggled.

I believe Hardaway Jr.’s complacency on both ends of the floor  was an issue at times last season, and his consistence could make or break Michigan’s season (Disclaimer: this is a personal pet peeve of mine that bothers me more than it should). He’s capable of dominating the college game but instead fell into a Manny Harris-esque trance late last season. Hardaway has the ability to be the Big 10’s leading scorer this season should he choose to follow that path. It’s either that or try to drop Harrison Barnes-like rainbow 19-footers all season and hope that’s a skill that NBA scouts value (hint: they don’t).

Circle these dates …

  • Nov. 27 — Michigan, ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll, plays No. 6 NC State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
  • Jan. 13 and Feb. 5 — The Wolverines split their series with Ohio State last season, but Jared Sullinger is gone and Michigan will match up better size-wise with the Buckeyes this season.
  • Feb. 2 and March 10 — Michigan plays preseason No. 1 Indiana after splitting two meetings with them last season.
  • Feb. 12 and March 2 — Michigan has actually one two of the last three against Michigan State, who previously had owned the recent history in that series. Strong performances against the Spartans this season could start Michigan on a new Wolverine tradition of dominance.

Outlook

Michigan opened the season ranked fifth in the country behind fellow Big 10 teams Indiana and Ohio State but ahead of Michigan State. The team is much more balanced with the addition of McGary in the frontcourt which should help the team avoid an upset like they suffered last year in the NCAA tournament. With the best backcourt in the Big 10 going into the season, Michigan should threaten for their second consecutive regular season conference title.

Previously


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