The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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34 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2018 2018-19 BASKETBALL PREVIEW BY CHRIS BALAS J ohn Beilein has had as inter- esting a ride this year as any in his 40-year coaching career, perhaps even in his life. The Michigan head coach led his team to a second straight Big Ten Tournament championship after losing three start- ers, getting them to peak in March once again. He flirted with the Detroit Pistons and would have thought seri- ously about accepting the job had it been offered, and only weeks later learned he'd need surgery to correct blockages to his heart. He was understandably emotional when he returned to face the media Sept. 27 for the first time since last April. "This has been as unique a nine months as anyone can have, from a run to the national title game, wining the Big Ten Tournament, having an opportunity at least to discuss and at least think about being the Detroit Pis- tons coach, and then being shocked by the need for a double bypass," Beilein said, thanking the media for respecting his privacy while he was in the hospital. There will be lifestyle changes, he noted — doctors will insist upon it, and his wife, Kathleen, too — but Beilein asserted he'd be better than ever once he recovered his ability to yell and project his voice. He did it pretty well during U-M's first practice later that day. He'd al- ready seen what his team could do, allowed 10 practices before a once-ev- ery-four-years trip overseas, this one to Spain, and then started the task of molding this group into a contender. He's got plenty of pieces. Junior leader and point guard Zavier Simp- son returns as the "quarterback," and he's clearly made it his team. He and redshirt junior guard Charles Mat- thews set the tone for the season last year with suffocating defense, one of the big reasons the Wolverines were able to gut out wins when the team wasn't shooting well, and there are three other key contributors returning in sophomore shooting guard Jordan Poole, sophomore power forward Isa- iah Livers and junior center Jon Teske. Add a talented freshman class and a few guys who have been waiting their turn, and there seems to be enough talent to compete for a Big Ten title. It won't be easy, Beilein noted. "The league is going to be one of those years where six or seven teams, if not eight, are in it at the end, not the four or five we had last year," he said. "There's a reason we had four or five last year. The reason we had that was everyone on those teams was young, people were developing. "Now those teams are developed, and some teams lost more than a few [great players] … but we're going to have our work cut out for us." A JUMP START The Wolverines have already be- gun, receiving a jump-start thanks to the trip overseas. The voyage to Spain was a success despite the 1-2 record, and the amount of allowed practice time has increased per NCAA rules, a change Beilein likes. "It's really changing my timetable for things that we do," Beilein said of rules changes. "That's been really encouraging." So have early practices. "I like this team," he continued. "As you know, we have to have ev- erything go right; we have to stay in- jury free. But we're a little ahead only because we did the European trip. "If you look at the scholarship situ- ation, we have 12 guys, almost half of them freshmen. That's a big thing. Some years it was just Moe Wagner, then two or three [in other years]. This year it is five, but we're further ahead than any time we've been here because of the European trip. The staff did a great job." Lead assistant Saddi Washington took the reins in Spain when Beilein stayed back to recover. Though the Wolverines turned the ball over 20- plus times in the first two games, Beilein wasn't discouraged. He BACK FOR MORE Michigan Returns With New Faces And High Expectations After A Run To The National Title Game Despite losing three starters, John Beilein (with sophomore guard Eli Brooks) coached U-M to its second straight Big Ten Tournament championship and then reached the national title game last year. The squad will have to replace three of its top four scorers this season. PHOTO BY PER KJLEDSEN

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