2007-08 Michigan Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #72
Conference Rank: #7 Big Ten
2006-07: 22-13, 8-8, 7th (t)
2006-07 postseason: NIT
The Tommy Amaker era at Michigan ended how it started…full of expectations, but with no results. The John Beilein regime has begun, but the expectations are nowhere to be found, for this year at least. The Wolverines lose a ton of talent, but that may not be a bad thing. Coach Beilein has a history of taking down programs and turning them around in two years with good, unselfish team play. Michigan is not known for their unselfish play, so how well Coach Beilein’s style takes in Ann Arbor will be an interesting story over the next couple of seasons.
With the new offensive and defensive philosophy and losing the top four scorers in Dion Harris, Lester Abram, Brent Petway and Courtney Sims, U of M will certainly look a lot different this year. Harris was the only real danger from beyond the arc last season and led the team with 13.4 points and 3.6 assists per game. Abram struggled through some injuries, but he was an effective slasher when healthy. Sims never reached his full potential, but the center wrapped up his career averaging 11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Petway was a monster on the defensive end and at least provided some excitement on the offensive end. Reed Baker saw some quality minutes as a backup guard and has opted to transfer.
The newcomers do not quite equal the talent of the departed players, but team cohesion is much more important to the success of the Wolverines than pure talent. However, it is not like there is no talent headed to Crisler Arena. Corperryale “Manny” Harris needs some work on his perimeter game, but the 6-5 wing is a tremendous athlete and finisher. Once he gains some strength and can hit the mid-range jumper, Harris will be a great player. Kelvin Grady is the point guard of the future, but will spend some time as the backup to learn the ropes. At 5-11, he is a point guard, but he will bring some scoring prowess to the position. Small forward Anthony Wright redshirted last season and will look to impress the new coaching staff. Walk-ons Zack Gibson, C.J. Lee and Eric Puls will also be suiting up on game day this season.
Who to Watch:
Jerret Smith started at the point the last nine games of the 2006-2007 campaign and will take over full-time starting duties this year. Smith’s turnover numbers were a little high, but the experience at the end of last season will be helpful. Smith is also the best returning shooter from beyond the arc, but made less than one per game. Ron Coleman and Jevohn Sherherd will battle for starting spots on the wing. Coleman, a senior, should increase his 5.7 points per game with more shooting opportunities, but he will also help out on the glass and be a tough defender. Shepherd was stuck down the depth chart during his first two years in Ann Arbor, but he was a highly touted player coming out of high school. He will have every opportunity to live up to his potential and make a big impact as an upperclassman.
The most potential is in the frontcourt where Ekpe Udoh and DeShawn Sims are expected to earn starting jobs. Udoh proved to be a monster on the defensive end and averaged 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last year mostly coming off the bench. Sims only averaged 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds on the season, but showed that he could have big games. In the NIT, Sims scored 14 points and reached double figures on two other occasions. When he got the minutes, the 6-8 Detroit native performed well. If he can keep it up through an entire season, the Wolverine frontcourt, although lacking depth, will be decent. Not only can the big guys not hit the long ball, but nobody on the team is a proven threat from behind the arc. That is not what one would expect from a John Beilein coached team and the entire season will depend on how the coaching staff and the players can come together and find a common ground on two drastically different approaches to the game. The players can buy into Beilein’s system, but they are not the versatile, long range shooters who keep turnovers to a minimum type of players that Beilein has been used to at West Virginia. It may not be pretty at times, but this is a team with enough talent to compete for a post season berth if the ball finally bounces the right away for Michigan.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jerret Smith, Junior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Manny Harris, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Ron Coleman, Senior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
DeShawn Sims, Sophomore, Forward, 3.4 points per game
Ekpe Udoh, Sophomore, Forward, 5.0 points per game