The non-conference slate ramps up considerably with last year's NCAA runner ups coming to Hilton Coliseum. recruits Rashad Vaughn and Alex Illikainen will be in the house getting recruited by new signee Clayton Custer, and the one and only Johnny Orr will be on hand to kick Dick Vitale's ass. We answered some questions about the Cyclones for Maize n Brew, SB Nation's Michigan community, and they returned the favor.
After a great season last year, how is Michigan planning to deal with the loss of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr and what are team expectations this year? think reasonable fan expectations are for Michigan to compete for a Big Ten title and make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, and I think that is certainly within reach.
The loss of Trey Burke is going to be a big obstacle for this offense to overcome, but Michigan has a few different options. You are probably already familiar with Spike Albrecht, the scrappy backup that went HAM in the first half against Louisville. He is a nice change of pace option, can handle the ball and set up other players, and has a nice outside shot. Freshman Derrick Walton is clearly the future at the position, and while his offensive game is a long way from what Burke was able to bring (obviously) he should be able to distribute well enough to set up the talent around him, and he has already shown a knack for better defense than Burke played. The last option is sophomore combo guard Caris LeVert, who is SG/SF sized, but also impressed the coaches enough that they have been experimenting with him as a change of pace PG in an ultra-big lineup.
Hardaway's production will be replaced in part by LeVert - who is also a pretty effective scorer and good outside shooter - as well as improvements from sophomore returning starters Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III who should be able to take on more of the scoring/usage load that THJ carried a year ago as the team's second option.
What's the final word on Mitch McGary's playing status? If he is out, who becomes the go-to post player and how does it change how Michigan plays?
He is not playing. His lower back "condition" which sounds way worse because it seems like the kind of thing we are going to be hearing about all year. I doubt he makes it back until December at the earliest, and even then they will work him back into the rotation slowly. We might not see the real Mitch McGary - whatever that is - until February.
Without McGary Michigan will have to scrap its off season plans at running a two big lineup. Beilein might roll it out here and there during the game, but it hasn't been effective even against poor competition and Michigan will need its best players on the floor in this one. Those are Michigan's deep, talented stable of wings with GRIII at the four and probably Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan splitting time at the five. Horford is more athletic but foul prone. Morgan is a heady defender and rebounder, but he won't generate much offense that isn't served up to him on a silver platter.
Glenn Robinson III is making the switch from the 4 to the 3 this year. How has that transition gone?
As I said above, it has been an off and on move. Michigan really can't afford to do it full scale yet because it doesn't have the roster for it and moving GRIII down kicks one of Caris LeVert or Nik Stauskas out of the lineup. The bigger question for GRIII is whether he will be able to generate his own offense this year. Last year his usage rate was ridiculously low (15.2%) because he spent a lot of the year as the guy that was open in the corner for a kick out pass, on the baseline for a quick feed and dunk, or in transition for something really cool. He struggled at times with the ball in his hands, and he is going to need to be more effective in that capacity for this offense to replace the production of Burke and Hardaway Jr.
What's the early report on Derrick Walton Jr, the runner up to Monte Morris as Michigan's Mr. Basketball? Can he give the Wolverines anything close to the level of production Trey Burke provided?
Walton has stepped in and done what most expected. He has helped run the offense, deferred to Michigan's more experience scoring options, and added a nice defensive presence in the backcourt. On the bright side, Michigan has a few options so everything isn't riding on his shoulders like it was when Burke stepped into the offense a couple years ago. He has been as good as Michigan needs him to be right now, but he will need to improve as the games get tougher. This will be a nice test for him.
As you probably know, Fred Hoiberg has taken several Big 10 transfers and turned them into viable pieces of NCAA tourney teams. He's been especially good about taking them from your rivals in Flint. Any players on your roster that we can trade you some bushels of corn for?
Iowa State missed out on the great transfer wave of 2011-12 when four players left the program for varying reasons. Of course, that opened up scholarships for Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, so the losses weren't nearly as bad as they could have been. Beilein has shown a really great knack for identifying talent early and getting the most out of it. He was in on the recruitment of GRIII and McGary well before either were five stars, and both THJ and Burke were fringe top-100 guys that he helped turn into first round picks. So if there are ever any local Ames kids that Beilein shows an interest in, Fred should work extra hard to keep them home.
I think Michigan starts slow and probably spends part or all of the first half playing from a few points behind while getting used to the road environment. If Michigan can get its shots to fall I think there will be a couple quick 7 or 8 point runs that turn the tide — this was a UM staple after halftime last year and has continued this year — and I think Michigan will have enough to close the game out in a close win. However, I could see the youth not responding well to the road environment and an off shooting day keeping Michigan out of it for most of the night. Michigan still hasn't played anyone of much consequence yet, so this game will go a long way toward establishing its identity this season.
And finally, what's your prediction for the game?