The Wolverine

November 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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48 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2018 2018-19 BASKETBALL PREVIEW With college basketball season right around the corner, the annual preseason magazines have hit newsstands. Michigan is squarely in the top 25 in nearly all rankings and are predicted to finish among the top four in the Big Ten after last year's run to the national championship game. Athlon wasn't as high on Michigan as the other preseason magazines. The Wolverines made their top 25, but only slotted in at No. 24. No U-M player made their three All-Amer- ica teams. The magazine projected Michigan to be one of five Big Ten teams to make the NCAA Tournament, but predicted that Michi- gan would fall short of the Sweet 16. According to Athlon, the Big Ten champi- onship will run through the state of Michi- gan. The magazine opined that U-M will finish second in the league, right behind Michigan State. In its Big Ten prediction, Athlon noted: "Don't look for McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, be- cause John Beilein has never had one. But he's got guys who embrace his system, such as Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson and Jordan Poole." No Wolverines made Athlon's All-Big Ten first team, but Mat- thews made the second team. The magazine explained that U-M will have to replace a lot of talent off of last season's national runner-up squad, but has a chance to succeed if its defense remains its identity and the freshmen get acclimated quickly. "One of the lessons learned: how to overcome losing players to the NBA," Athlon noted of U-M under John Beilein. "In the last two years, it was D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner. Asked if he's more adept at dealing with early departures, Beilein quickly replies, 'Yeah, for sure.' This season will test the theory. Michigan has two assets: young talent and Beilein's coaching." Athlon ranked the top 100 players in the nation, and only one Wolverine made the list, with the redshirt junior guard Mat- thews checking in at No. 36. "One of the best athletes in college hoops, Matthews turned into a two-way star at Michigan following a transfer from Ken- tucky," the magazine noted. "With Moritz Wagner gone, he'll step into a larger role and increase his production from the 13.0 points and 5.5 rebounds he averaged as a sophomore." Athlon said that center Jon Teske is more of a true post center and better on defense than Wagner. Also, in the frontcourt, the magazine noted freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis models his game after 2017 NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward. In the backcourt, Athlon declared: "Zavier Simpson will be Michigan's emotional leader and the best defensive point guard in the Big Ten. The question is whether he can improve his shooting and expand his offensive role." Lindy's has Michigan slotted at No. 21 in their preseason na- tional rankings. "An underrated part of Beilein is his recruiting, so there's a handful of talented guys most have never heard of waiting for more minutes, not that the line has shortened," the magazine noted. "There's no clear-cut Big Ten favorite, but Michigan being in the mix is a foregone conclusion." The magazine projects Michigan to make the NCAA Tournament, but also expects the Wolverines to get bounced before the Sweet 16. No Wolverines made Lindy's All-America Teams and only Matthews made Lindy's list of the country's top 150 players, checking at No. 104. Matthews also made the outlet's All-Big Ten third team. Lindy's predicts that Michigan will finish third in the league, right behind Michigan State and Purdue. "An August trip to Spain will help the Wol- verines make it rain in March — through they won't quite make it to April," the publi- cation opined. Lindy's overview of U-M noted: "Flexibility may be this team's greatest asset, as Beilein believes he has a talented group that can play big one moment and be just as successful playing small the next. After winning 14 straight games after adjusting to how teams were playing them entering the final stages of the regular season last year, Beilein senses that versatility is key. Ultimately, however, suc- cess will be predicated on how quickly Beilein — one of the game's great mix masters — can get the formula figured out." The magazine thinks that Brazdeikis will be Michigan's top newcomer and that Teske is one player to keep an eye on. One player that Lindy's thought can emerge as a 2018-19 honors candidate is sophomore guard Jordan Poole. "If Jordan Poole can settle into the starting role he's expected to take on and keep his talent from being overshadowed by his energy, he could develop into one of the league's top players," Lindy's noted. Street & Smith's is the preseason magazine highest on Michi- gan, ranking the Wolverines No. 17 nationally. Matthews also makes the annual publication's Preseason All-America third team. However, the outlet doesn't think U-M will win the Big Ten, predicting Michigan State will do so. "Under Beilein, the Wolverines have generated a consistency that the program has never enjoyed, and that stable produc- tion manifests that U-M is tied with North Carolina for the most NCAA Tourney wins (16) over the past six years," the publication wrote. "Despite another early NBA departure — Moritz Wagner — Michigan expects to be successful again." Street & Smith's was also high on Simpson. "Simpson must take an even bigger jump with his shot, which was shaky from anywhere beyond 10 feet last year," the maga- zine noted. "Beilein has been impressed with the point man's commitment to improving and knows that if he becomes more accurate while continuing to be an excellent defender and distributor, he'll be the team's perfect engine." Finally,'s Jerry Palm is another prognosticator high on U-M, projecting the Wolverines to make the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed in his preseason bracketology. — Andrew Hussey PRESEASON PROJECTIONS PICK U-M AS TOP-25 TEAM, BUT NOT BIG TEN CHAMPIONS Athlon called junior Zavier Simpson "Michigan's emotional leader and the best defensive point guard in the Big Ten." PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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