For the first time in 12 years, the Michigan Wolverines will be going into a new basketball season without head coach John Beilein. With the departure of Beilein, Michigan has chosen former Wolverine Juwan Howard to be the head coach. He will look to take a Michigan team back atop the Big Ten in this new era at Crisler Arena.
The big picture: Losing arguably a top-10 coach in Belien sure hurts, but no one can count the Wolverines out. This team still has a ton of talent going that can keep them competitive in the B1G.
Who is still around? Although Michigan lost its three top scorers in Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews, the roster still returns a decent amount of experience.
Here are they guys who will have the biggest impact in Ann Arbor this season:
- Zavier Simpson: He is famous for his hook shot, but Simpson is much more than that. His shooting has improved greatly and his passing makes him the ideal point guard for Michigan. Expect a big senior year from Simpson.
- Jon Teske: The 7-footer leads all returning players in scoring from last year. Teske is a low-post scorer who plays well in pick-n-roll on the offensive end. There will be a lot more weight on his shoulders with the loss of Charles Matthews in the front court.
- Isaiah Livers: Last season, Livers was the sixth man on the Wolverines, averaging around eight points a game off the bench. He even had a highlight reel dunk in the tournament. The high-flying forward will most likely replace Brazdeikis at the small forward spot.
- Eli Brooks: The 6-foot-1 guard played in all 37 games for Michigan last season. He will be another guy that steps into the starting lineup alongside Simpson in the backcourt.
New additions: Not only did Howard join the Wolverines, but he brought in some talent and loaded his staff with some great personnel.
- Franz Wagner: The brother of former Michigan legend, Moritz Wagner, Franz is a small version of his older brother. He is listed at 6-foot-7 and has a long-range jumper with good defensive abilities.
- Cole Bajema: A four-star recruit from Lynden, WA, the 6-foot-6 guard/forward adds on to the depth that the Wolverines desperately need. He is a great shooter and has the ability to finish through contact.
- Phil Martelli: After his long tenure at St. Joe’s, Martelli was let go in Philly and has now found himself at Ann Arbor. He is well known for his defensive-minded teams that love to frustrate opponents. This is a huge get, not only for the Wolverines, but also for Juwan Howard.
- Jay Smith: At one point, Smith was a coach for Howard during Michigan’s back to back title runs in the early 1990s. Now Smith is under Howard’s system. Jay Smith was a part of the staff that recruited one of the greatest recruiting classes in Michigan history: the Fab Five. This a great move by Michigan
Things to watch for: Because of the turnaround for Michigan, there will be some major changes within the program. What are the most important things to look for this season?
- Player development: John Beilein was one of the best coaches in terms of development at Michigan. He was able to take guys who were not highly recruited and turn them into NBA prospects. Will Juwan Howard be able to do the same thing in Ann Arbor?
- Depth issues: The Wolverines may have a really good starting lineup, but the question is who steps up after them? They will need to rely on guys like Colin Castleton and Austin Davis in the front court as well as David DeJulius in the backcourt.
- Defensive schemes: With Martelli as the most experienced coach on the staff, he will replace former assistant Luke Yaklich, who turned around the Wolverines defense making them one of the toughest teams to play against in the Big 10. Martelli will most likely be in charge of the defense for Michigan.
- Big 10 play: Michigan will be an underdog in many of the conference games. If it can finish above .500 with a few big wins against Michigan State and Ohio State, then this team could in the 2020 tourney.
The bottom line: The Big Ten will once again be loaded this season, so Michigan may struggle to find themselves atop the standings. It will depend on how well Howard can coach this team as well as be competitive.
A few wins against top teams like Michigan State, Maryland, and Ohio State could give the Wolverines an easy bid to the 2020 tourney.