The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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50 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 2016-17 BASKETBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON ichigan head coach John Beilein assured on his program's media day he won't be looking far ahead on the Big Ten schedule. The challenge of the moment will suffice. In fact, he insisted he took a peek at it and looked away. Beilein laughed when making that comment, but he knows what lies ahead isn't a laugh- ing matter. At one point in the slate, Michi- gan faces six straight games against teams most figure as Big Ten con- tenders: Indiana, at Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan State, at In- diana, Wisconsin. No wonder he averted his eyes. The Wolverines return a starting lineup intact from its NCAA Tourna- ment loss versus Notre Dame — se- nior guard Derrick Walton Jr., red- shirt junior guard Duncan Robinson, junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur- Rahkman, senior forward Zak Irvin and redshirt junior forward Mark Donnal. That in itself gives hope that the Wolverines' appearances in The Big Dance could continue in 2016-17. But there's nothing easy about it, and the Wolverines understand that fact, up and down the lineup. Here's a look at how the Big Ten as a whole shapes up this season. BIG TEN'S FIVE BEST TEAMS 1. Wisconsin — The Badgers won 22 games in 2015-16, tying for third place in the league with a 12-6 record. They lost nobody of note off their roster, and Wisconsin teams thrive on veteran players well accustomed to each other and their system. Nigel Hayes remains a force for the Badgers, and big man Ethan Happ is a handful. Wisconsin started out last season horribly, but won 11 of its last 12 to storm to the NCAA Tourna- ment and figures to hit the league in full stride this season. The Badgers were listed at No. 8 nationally in the ESPN No-Longer- Way-Too-Early Top 25. 2. Purdue — There's no more A.J. Hammons, but the other half of the Boilermakers' twin towers remains, in 7-2 Isaac Haas. Moreover, the ex- plosive Caleb Swanigan and substan- tial talent beyond him get a shot at elevating Purdue. One of the Boilermakers' newcom- ers is an old friend — former Michi- gan guard Spike Albrecht, back in his home state for a final college basket- ball season. ESPN tabbed Purdue at No. 15 in its No-Longer-Way-Too-Early Top 25. 3. Michigan State — The Spartans find themselves on the other end of the experience chart, but Tom Izzo will feature some of the league's best young firepower. There's no Den- zel Valentine and Bryn Forbes in the lineup, but transfer Eron Harris, Lourawls Nairn and the redoubtable rookies can make some noise. Among the new wave, five-stars Miles Bridges and Josh Langford, along with in-state four-star Cassius Winston, will make a push to crack the lineup. The Spartans came in at No. 10 in the ESPN No-Longer-Way-Too-Early Top 25. 4. Indiana — The Hoosiers lost Yogi Ferrell from a 27-8 squad that won the Big Ten with a 15-3 record. The defending champs don't figure OVERVIEW Purdue center Isaac Haas led the Big Ten in points per 40 minutes (27.4) last year. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL The Conference Packs A Punch By Retaining Firepower

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